Based on the trailers it feels like a dysfunctional family film meets coming of age comedy set in the 90s. While it has aspects of both, it never really hits its mark. Instead, the story focuses on infidelity and gently telling the audience that monogamy is but a myth.
Synopsis: The Manhattan of 1995: a land without cell phones, but abundant in CD listening stations, bar smoke, and family dysfunction. Enter the Jacobs. Eldest daughter Dana’s looming marriage to straight-laced Ben prompts a wilful dive into her wild side, while her younger sister, Ali, is still in high school but leads a covert life of sex, drugs, and clubbing. After discovering love letters penned by their father, the sisters try to expose his apparent affair while keeping it from their all-too-composed mother. (Amazon Studios)
Starring: Jenny Slate, Abby Quinn and Edie Falco
Writers: Elisabeth Holm and Gillian Robespierre
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (USA)
Running Time: 97 mins
For showtimes and more, check out Landline on movietimes.com.
This film is the second collaboration between actor Jenny Slate and director Gillian Robespierre who also worked on 2014’s Obvious Child. While the main theme of that film is slightly different, this new film has a very similar feel.
The story follows the Jacobs family starting with Dana, the oldest daughter (Slate), who finds herself in full-blown quarter-life crisis as she questions where she is in live with both her job and her fiancé (Jay Duplass). Her younger sister Ali (Quinn) is going through her senior year rebellious stage as she stays out late, drinks and does progressively worse drugs. Meanwhile their parents Alan (John Turturro), an adman and amateur playwright, and Pat (Falco), an EPA employee, deal with their conflicting parenting styles and lack of communication.
It’s funny to think about what genre this film falls into. It’s listed as a comedy, and the trailers certainly make it out to be, but the way the story unfolds is more dramatic if anything. In typical comedies we expect happy endings, fantastical final moments and big gestures that sweep us off our feet, but Landline never has that. Instead it relies on setting a story in the real world with real people and shows that not everything has a fairytale ending. Sometimes things just don’t work out and there’s little we can do about it.
The cast is likable in this film from newcomer Abby Quinn to seasoned actors like Falco and Turturro, but none of their performances are career-defining or award worthy by any means. They merely take on a very overdone barebones story, which ends up being a haphazard arrangement of comedic and dramatic moments, and add their own charm to it. However, one character that seemed too over the top was Slate’s Dana. As the older sister and an apparent adult, some of her antics were a bit too childish throughout the story. And that plays back into this film not knowing what tone it wanted to portray. It felt like every other character is in a family drama and then Jenny Slate comes in to yell COMEDY across the theatre to remind you it isn’t meant to be as deep as you think.
Overall, this was an alright dramedy. It brings nothing new to the dysfunctional family and coming of ages genres that it merely scratches the surface of, leaving a lingering taste of the 90s that lets you come to terms with just how old you really are.
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