Quick Hit: An interesting picture of family and growing up.
Jenny Slate, maybe better known as the voice behind Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, is a pretty terrific comedian, who is also extremely approachable as an actress. Her characters, which have shown up in a variety of animations (due to her extremely recognizable voice), have now started to show up more in life-action fare. This started with Obvious Child, continued with Gifted, and will continue further in Venom. Somewhere dancing around that was this Indie film by the same director as Obvious Child, Gillian Robespierre. Landline follows the antics of a Jewish Italian family as they navigate all of life’s many challenges, particularly when it comes to relationships and growing up.
This leads instantly to some really touching scenes, and some really humorous ones. Slate plays Dana, a girl who works on a magazine layout, and is about to be married to her vanilla boyfriend. A chance encounter puts her back into the orbit of a previous crush, which begins to lead her to questioning her life’s decisions. She moves back home, under the pretense of helping her sister and mother (Edie Falco), who are having their own problems. Her sister Ali (Abby Quinn) is all about rebellion, and soon discovers (on a FLOPPY DISC, remember those??) that her father (John Turturro) may or may not be having an affair.
Landline best plays if you watch it as a series of skits, much like a sitcom. It’s set up that way, because there is only a loose thread that ties everything together. There’s not anything truly wrong with this, but it does make everything a bit disjointed. As with any sketch show, some of the sketches are better than others, and it shows. The ones between Quinn and Slate shine brightest, but it may be due to the development of their characters past the events that occur to them. Ali is a young girl that is struggling to find her reasons for growing up, and Dana is trying to grow up as well. Their interactions with each other are true sibling fodder, and it’s clear that there is great chemistry between the actresses.
But the problem is that the whole thing feels a bit pointless. The whole movie is centered on two infidelities, but never quite goes forth with making them feel real, particularly the father’s. And while Turturro does a solid job at selling his one big scene, it’s a case of “too little too late”. The film also gives us the classic sitcom example of a montage where everything just seems to be working out, and I think that’s a little too tidy for this film that is so heavily based on real life.
The film’s set design and props never let us stop knowing that it is set in the nineties, but I can’t help but wonder why this was so important. I have a total affinity for the nineties and all the nostalgia it brings, but the whole film is an exercise in getting beat over the head with “SEE IT’S THE NINETIES” – after watching the recent Captain Marvel trailer featuring a Blockbuster, I hope that isn’t a trend.
Landline is a solid family drama, that leaves a lot to be desired. I’m giving it a “C-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"