Screen Savor: ‘Landline’ is Disconnected

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Abby Quinn, Jenny Slate, and John Turturro in LANDLINE, an Amazon Studios release. Courtesy Amazon Studios.

 If you loved Gillian Robespierre’s 2014 feature film debut, the brilliant and poignant pro-choice comedy “Obvious Child,” then you are probably going to be more than a little disappointed by her second movie “Landline” (Magnolia). This viewer was.

“Landline” has a rock-solid cast that is sadly wasted on less than stellar material. While everything about Obvious Child was fresh and eye-opening, “Landline” feels all too familiar. A New York family, half-Jewish/half-Italian, deals with infidelity in the mid-1990s. We’ve all seen variations of this kind of thing in movies and on television.

Advertising copywriter and budding playwright Alan (John Turturro), the father, is frustrated in his marriage to Pat (Edie Falco). Pat, who works for city government, in turn, also feels neglected. Alan begins having an affair with Carla (Amy Carlson), an actress who takes part in a stage-reading of his play.

Eldest daughter Dana (Jenny Slate, who was amazing in “Obvious Child,” reunites with Robespierre), works in layout at “Paper Magazine” and is engaged to marry Ben (Jay Duplass). Ben enjoys shower sex and reading the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. Dana, who is easily distracted, starts her own affair by sleeping with college friend Nate (Finn Wittrock, who certainly has his charms but is no Jake Lacy. Sorry.).

Youngest daughter Ali (Abby Quinn), in the early stages of a relationship with classmate Jed (Dylan Prince), is making a habit of skipping school during the day and going clubbing and to raves at night. She’s also experimenting with an array of drugs, including snorting heroin.

The best part of “Landline” is the way that the family crises bring the siblings together. Not known for being particularly sisterly (some of their insults are choice), it’s nice to watch as they bond over the potential dissolution of their parents’ marriage, as well as their own complicated individual situations. Rating: C+


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