PLOT Adult sisters bond over the possibility that their father is cheating on their mother.
CAST Jenny Slate, Edie Falco, John Turturro
RATED R (sexual conduct, language, drug use)
PLAYING AT Roslyn Cinemas
BOTTOM LINE A fine cast, spearheaded by Slate’s performance.
Three of the key creative members of 2014’s heartfelt abortion dramedy “Obvious Child” have re-teamed for the ’90s family comedy “Landline.” Director Gillian Robespierre once again joins forces with writer Elisabeth Holm and star Jenny Slate for this story about multigenerational complications of life and love.
The specificity with which Holm and Robespierre have rendered the world of the film reveals their roots in and knowledge of the New York City of the 1990s, from the West Village Halloween parade, to raves, to checking phone messages on a pay phone. The political and cultural references are spot on, the fashions are on point, and the soundtrack is a nostalgia-filled trip down memory lane.
Sisters Ali (Abby Quinn) and Dana (Slate) are going through their respective growing pains of young adulthood — Ali is a rebellious teenager, sneaking off to clubs and experimenting with drugs. While Dana might seem to have it all together, engaged to Ben (Jay Duplass), working at Paper Magazine, soon she’s crumbling over existential questions about her life and future. Things aren’t helped when Ali discovers erotic poetry on a floppy disk belonging to their father, Alan (John Turturro), and the sisters are soon trying to suss out if he’s having an affair, and with whom.
Turturro and Edie Falco, who plays the girls’ mom, Pat, are always such warm, sturdy presences on screen, and “Landline” is no exception. Quinn brings a quintessential brittle teenage charm to her role. But as much as “Landline” strives to be an ensemble, Slate’s effervescent, almost manic, energy draws attention in such a way that you wonder if this should have been her film.
Despite the warm feelings of ’90s nostalgia inspired by the familiar if forgotten songs, clothes and ways of life, there’s a creeping sense that there’s no real reason for “Landline” to be set in this time period — there’s nothing about the story itself that demands it be in the 1990s. It’s a family drama that could be set at any time, this just happens to be the one they chose.