Director Gillian Robespierre rvteams with Jenny Slate, star of her debut feature Obvious Child, for her follow up, Landline. Likeable and fun, though less inclined to stick to the ribs, the story follows two mid-1990s sisters, Dana and Ali (Slate and Abby Quinn), who discover their father (John Turturro) is cheating on their mother (Edie Falco).
Slate perfectly captures the post-college “what do I do now” anxiety and uncertainty, and Landline should, for Quinn, be a star-making turn—she straight up hijacks the screen from whoever has the misfortune to share it with her, and given her co-stars, that’s an impressive feat. Falco is as good as she’s ever been, and this is worth watching for the authentic, poignant relationship between the mother and daughters alone. It encapsulates the inherent angst, rebellion, and love in so many mother-daughter dynamics. Turturro doesn’t have much to do, then again, he’s not the focal point. Though he delivers enough pathos, depth, and trademark weirdness to keep his character from being a mere plot device.
Perhaps not as memorable as its predecessor, and occasionally straying into sitcom territory, Landline remains charming and grounded, a touch nostalgic (especially for children of the ‘90s), and entirely relatable across many levels. The characters are funny and flawed and real, and the film shows them warts-and-all but never vilifies or passes judgment.
Once again, Robespierre shows her sharp eye for finding comedy in drama and drama in comedy. If you’re not keeping tabs on her, do yourself a favor and start. While Landline will probably be seen by more people than Obvious Child (Amazon grabbed the rights out of Sundance), and that’s a move in the right direction, it’s not enough. But we’re fortunate to have Gillian Robespierre making movies, and that might be. [Grade: B+]
This is an expanded version of our capsule review from the Seattle International Film Festival.