August 10, 2017

SCREEN | Jenny Slate Travels to 1995 by 'Landline'

"You are such a tiny *sshole."
Jenny Slate Gillian Robespierre | Landline

Obvious Child collaborators, director Gillian Robespierre and her muse in actress/comedian Jenny Slate, have reunited for a fall of 1995 set relationship comedy meets family drama full of Must See TV era nostalgic twists in Landline. Co-writer/producer Elisabeth Holm, Robespierre, and Slate use the setting and familial subject matter to explore the messiness of longheld human relationships.

Heavyweight New York veteran actors Edie Falco and John Turturro play Alan and Pat, the troubled parents to Slate's Dana. The evidence of an affair sparks Dana's troubled teenage sister Ali (Abby Quinn) into Nancy Drew type action in between her sneaking out, going clubbing, having sex, and experimenting with hard drugs. Quinn and Slate have an incredible sisterly chemistry full of bickering and conflicted love.

The decision to set the film in 1995 is a curious but mostly welcome one. Analogue culture and imagery revolving around CDs, phone booths, answering machines, Blockbuster Video, and Helen Hunt's cameltoe taps into recent nostalgia while implicitly reminding us of the barriers or limitations of communicating at the time. Most of all, the lack of cell phones or widespread internet technology make the sense of isolation the family members feel all the more apparent.

Jenny Slate Edie Falco Abby Quinn Gillian Robespierre | Landline

Jay Duplass and Finn Wittrock play Dana's duelling love interests, her long-suffering milk toast boyfriend and exciting college crush, tapping into different parts of her and Slate's emotional wells. She's a bored and confused but complicated woman deeply unsure of the life she's chosen exasperated by the turmoil her immediate family is experiencing.

It's hard to express just how delightful Landline really is. Newcomer Quinn, in particular, is a standout in the stellar cast of veteran comedian and dramatic actors. She holds her own against heavyweights Falco and Turturro as her worried parents in addition to giving just as good as gets against Slate's sharp comedic antics.

Landline is another delightful entry in this trio's string of female character driven comedies with serious dramatic bents. It's a bigger, messier, and more artful affair in its exploration of conflicting human relationship dynamics. The film proves itself a heartfelt and earnest drama only elevated with its deft comedic balance. In many ways, it feels reminiscent of serious '90s family dramas but with hard sensibilities from that era's popular multi-camera sitcoms.

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