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Review: Landline (Sundance) starring Jenny Slate

Landline (Sundance) starring Jenny Slate
01.23.2017
4 10

PLOT: Two sisters (Jenny Slate & Abby Quinn) living in 1995-NYC struggle with the revelation that one of their parents is having an affair.

REVIEW: LANDLINE is the sophomore feature from writer-director Gillian Robespierre, whose debut, THE OBVIOUS CHILD, was one of the buzziest titles in recent Sundance memory. As such, her follow-up comes with high expectations, and audiences expecting something as edgy or provocative as her last film will be surprised at just how conventional an effort LANDLINE proves to be.

An examination of monogamy that’s dressed up with a goofy 90’s setting, seemingly only so that pay phone and “must-see-tv” jokes can be sprinkled-in with the period soundtrack, the overall message of this one is terribly lightweight. Only the performances from the distinguished cast make this anything more than a sitcom dressed up with a few “gritty” touches, such as a drug side-plot that seems lifted from an after-school special.

It helps that Jenny Slate’s star charisma is turned way-up here, as she’s really what makes it worth checking out - if it is at all. As a soon-to-be-married New York girl, bored with her laid-back fiancée (Jay Duplass), Slate is all the things she was in THE OBVIOUS CHILD, and clearly Robespierre, despite the limitations of her material (for which she also co-wrote the screenplay) knows how to play to her star’s strengths. It just all feels so minor, and even Slate’s appeal can’t make you care about her flighty character, who becomes obsessed with the notion that her father (John Turturro) is cheating on her mom (Edie Falco).

She’s drawn into spying on her dad by her wild-child younger sister (Quinn) who rails against her parents authority, although given that she’s show snorting heroin at nightclubs, maybe their concern is well-advised. Her and Slate goof around a lot, and sure enough they do seem like sisters, but neither is playing someone compelling or even three-dimensional. The same goes for Falco, who’s presented as being so harsh and unloving to her husband early on, but later we’re supposed to feel for her when she gets cheated on. Ditto Turturro, and Duplass’s characters, who have no back-bone, making it almost understandable their partners would want to cheat. It all comes together in a frustrating conclusion notable for how many false endings it has. Audiences feeling that the story is coming to an end once relationships are resolved will be stunned to realize they have another thirty-to-forty minutes left.

All that said, Roberpierre’s talent is sometime very evident, with the production values high and her able to accurately recreate nineties NYC despite a small budget. She’s certainly one to watch, but the bad thing about LANDLINE is that it feels like it could have been made by anyone - a disappointing given how distinctive THE OBVIOUS CHILD was. This feels like a safe, cuddly movie designed for a big sale - in effect a very typical mid-level indie. It’s a shame because all-involved are capable of so much more.

Source: JoBlo.com

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