Film Review: LANDLINE (USA 2017) ***

landline.jpgIn 1995, a teenager living with her sister and parents in Manhattan discovers that her father is having an affair.

Director: Gillian Robespierre
Writers: Elisabeth Holm (story by), Gillian Robespierre (story by)
Stars: Jenny Slate, Jay Duplass, Abby Quinn

Review by Gilbert Seah

 
Director Gillian Robespierre and actress Jenny Slate team up once again after their mildly successful film, OBVIOUS CHILD. Their new film LANDLINE opens to a couple having sex in the woods. There is no full nudity, just trousers and skirts down or up as the case may be. It is a comical scene as the orgasm is interrupted by what she calls a woodchuck’s peter pater. Most people can relate to this scene, as most people would have had sex in the outdoors at least once in their lifetime and the scene would be a familiar if not an amusing one.

LANDLINE is a female point of view relationship romantic comedy/drama involving three females of the Jacobs family – the mother Pat (Edie Falco), and the two daughters, Dana (Jenny Slate) and the younger, Ali (Abby Quinn). The main plot involves the sisters finding out, by accident that their father, Alan (John Turturro) is having an affair. They decide to find out who his mistress is but they debate on whether they should inform their mother.

A simple premise of a father’s secret infidelity in a slightly dysfunctional household is not enough material to keep an audience interested throughout an entire movie. So, the scriptwriters (the majority of whom are female, as is obvious from the film) have inserted other subplots or distractions. Two are the relationships of the two daughters. Another is the use of drugs, heroin by the youngest daughter. And another involves the film’s setting in the 1990’s. The setting means no use of cell phones as they were not invented yet, hence the film title of LANDLINE. Robespierre also has the excuse to put in plenty of 90’s period music which include lots of really popular songs like “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood and My favourite song “Two of Hearts” by Stacey Q.

The film tries too hard at times making it look too smart for its own good.

Many of these involve Dana and her boyfriend, Ben (Jay Duplass). The bath tub scene looks too manipulative and false, only there to create an artificial ‘cool’ segment. Their corny dialogue in the scene does not help either. Working better is the relationship between the younger sister Ali and her drug using boyfriend. Their banter and relationship appear more natural and comes across as not only more spontaneous but credible.

Of all the performances, Edie Falco (the mother) is the most winning. John Turturro does well as the hapless asshole who cheats and then expects to be forgiven for his errors by his smart talk. This confrontation between Alan and Pat forms the film’ s best part with the audience clearly on the side of the female’s.

Despite the film’s flaws, it succeeds on the performances of its cast. The humour is slight but the drama is real. The sibling interactions work. The feeling is that the dysfunctional family onscreen could be yours.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llmki0lioMs

 

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