Starring Jenny Slate, Jay Duplass, Abby Quinn, John Turturro, Edie Falco, Finn Wittrock
Writer/director Gillian Robespierre re-teams with comedian Jenny Slate (Gifted) following their 2014 pregnancy film Obvious Child. Landline is a family dramedy that wallows in the era of 1995 so much that many scenes are devoted to nostalgic images over advancing the plot. Landline is also another film that promotes the worst aspect of New York City. In all fairness, there are very few films that focus on positive aspects of The Big Apple. While Falco (The Sopranos) is the most accomplished actor in the cast, she is given the least to do here. Landline is a film about children learning that their parents are not perfect, that life never gives you what you expect, and that mistakes are all just a part of the adulting process.
Donna (Slate) the eldest daughter of Pat (Falco) and Alan (Turturro) is questioning her engagement to Ben (Duplass). They have already moved in together, but Nate (Wittrock) a recent flame from college, has her second guessing if the life she has picked out for herself is the one she wants. Her younger sister, teenaged Ali (Quinn), has just discovered her dad is being unfaithful to mom. As she begins to discover who she is, which includes sneaking out of the house to go clubbing, experimenting with drugs and boys, Ali and Donna grow closer in their time of need. Donna understands her fathers need to cheat, while Ali begins to lose all hope in humanity.
For a script that’s intended to be funny, and presented as a comedy, there isn’t much to laugh at in Landline.
Mad About You, windbreakers, record stores, and payphones, Landline is far more interested in taking us back to the 90’s than creating characters we care about. Slate splits up her leading role duty with Quinn, who gets equal screen time. Both women give the audience a contrasting advantage of life, love, and responsibility. Slate and Robespierre’s films continue to promote independent female voices, which I am enthusiastically in support of. However, they also continue to display the worst characteristics of people in general: cheaters, druggies, etc. New York 1995 is portrayed as a grungy, disgusting and un-redeeming city that destroys every person trampling the sidewalk.
While it’s just her style of acting and natural behavior, Slate’s constant giggling throughout this movie (and others) is nerve wracking. She already has a nasal thing going, which I can get over, it’s her natural voice, she can’t help it. But this giggle she does makes a 90-minute film with her painful. Slate takes over where Greta Gerwig’s New York films seem to have left off, both are portraying the same type of female. For a script that’s intended to be funny, and presented as a comedy, there isn’t much to laugh at in Landline. It’s a sad film about the moment we’ve all had, the realization that life isn’t what we imagined as a teenager.
Jenny Slate might be the most difficult actress to endure on screen, right behind Greta Gerwig, whose films about life in NYC are identical.