A dramady with heart and grit.
Director: Gillian Robespierre (Obvious Child)
Screenplay: Elisabeth Holm (Obvious Child) , Robespierre
Cast: Jenny Slate (Obvious Child), Jay Duplass (Beatriz at Dinner)
Runtime: 1 hr 37 min.
by John DeSando
A school of thought says that monogamy is enhanced by infidelity, a counterintuitive theory that writer/director Gillian Robespierre and writer Elisabeth Holm appear to support in their engaging comedy, Landline. The family of two girls, Dana (Jenny Slate) and Ali (Abby Quinn), Mom (Edie Falco) and Dad (John Turturro) are in constant dysfunctional mode with two major infidelities and a few drugs.
It’s really a dramady because the resolutions of conflicts rest in some serious soul searching while the writers have kept enough light tone to lift spirits when gloom seems to be the order of the day. Laughs are more an expression of agreement that life is messy. The antidote is humor and love.
Easy enough when dad cries out that his infidelity is borne of never being what his wife wanted him to be. Then Dana embarks on an affair to neutralize her fears of marriage. Both indiscretions seem to be rooted in insecurity.
This bright indie respects the humanity of its characters so that it makes no judgment but rather celebrates their weaknesses and emphasizes their strengths and also believes that in 1995 the world is ready for an easy bridge from tape to floppies to digital, from eyebrow rings to tattoos.
The film’s good will extends to minor characters like Dana’s lover,Nate (Finn Whitrock), a pleasant former school chum with a resemblance to John Davidson, in other words wholesome with a cute smile. The film allows that such a romance is not outlandish, just morally questionable so as to endanger her engagement. Equally so dad’s affair, although we never get to know his paramour.
Mostly Landline is about people who stay connected, not by current restrictive social media but by talking. This retro way of communicating might be the film’s subtle prescription for long-term happiness.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com