Thursday, July 20, 2017

“Landline”– Movie Review


This week, I attended a sneak preview at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center for the new comedy, “Landline”, starring Jenny Slate, Edie Falco and John Turturro.


When sisters discover that their father has been unfaithful, what impact will this have on the life of their family?


In the mid-1990’s, life is good for Dana (Slate) and her family.  She’s engaged to Ben (Jay Duplass), a sweet but dull young man who’s very much in love with her.  Ali (Abby Quinn), her teenage sister, has an impending high school graduation; while her parents are pushing her to attend college as they did, she is not quite so sure.  As for their parents Alan and Pat (John Turturro and Edie Falco), both siblings appear to get along splendidly with them, even if their own relationship with each other can cleave toward being a bit fractious, so put it mildly.  Alan and Pat, on the other hand, seem to have grown a bit distant over their years together.

At a party, Dana runs into Nate (Finn Wittrock), an old college flame with whom she winds up re-igniting their passionate relationship behind Ben’s back.  Meanwhile, Ali stumbles upon evidence that Alan is having an affair of his own.  Does Pat know about this?  If not, should Ali be the one to blow the whistle on her father?  On this matter, Ali is a bit conflicted; while she sees Alan’s unfaithfulness as wrong, she has also witnessed her mother’s behavior toward him as deliberately driving him away.  Unsure how to properly handle this awkward situation, Ali spills the beans to Dana and seeks her advice on the matter.

Before either of the sisters have the opportunity to confront Alan or Pat regarding this troubling news, Pat reveals to Alan that she in fact knows what he’s been up to.  The two separate and plan to divorce.  In the meantime, Ben is growing increasingly concerned about Dana; she moved in with her parents shortly after things started heating up with Nate and Ben has barely heard from his fiancée in the intervening period.  Ultimately, Dana confesses to Ben that she’s been seeing Nate, which causes Ben to break up with her.  Realizing that she needs to settle down with Ben, can Dana convince him that she’ll be faithful in the future?  Also, with their family on the verge of breaking apart, can the two sisters put their differences aside (at least temporarily) to try to unite their family?


It’s hard to tell if the gifts of Gillian Robespierre as a filmmaker inspires the performance delivered by actress Jenny Slate or if it’s Slate’s acting that inspires Robespierre’s directing choices.  Perhaps it’s a little bit of both.  Regardless, they make an incredible collaborative team, proving that their previous work together, “Obvious Child”, was no fluke; “Landline” shows that the team of Robespierre and Slate do not suffer from the dreaded Sophomore Jinx.  Once again, they are able to present a story full of both mirth and sorrow, often simultaneously.

A great deal of credit also must go to Elisabeth Holm, who shares the screenwriting credit with Robespierre.  This duo also co-wrote “Obvious Child”, their breakout movie from several years ago.  They have a sensibility and storytelling style that appears to bring out the very best in each other; remarkably, the pair are able to find humor in truth and truth in humor.  The characters they have delineated are rich and, as heartbreakingly real as they may be in their flaws, are also deeply funny, even when they don’t realize their own ridiculous behavior. 

Following the screening, there was a question and answer session with Robespierre, Slate, screenwriter Holm and Slate’s co-star Abby Quinn.  Robespierre said that the story came about because she and Holm share a similar background; not only did they grow up in New York City during the 1990’s, they also both saw their parents divorce during that same period.  In their case, this shared trauma only served to strengthen the familial bond that both had with their respective parents and siblings.  Slate said that following “Obvious Child”, she and Robespierre kept in touch and were eager to work together again.  

Landline (2017) on IMDb

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