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Monday, July 17, 2017

Quickie Review: LANDLINE Starring Jenny Slate, Edie Falco, and John Turturro

For what it's worth, LANDLINE is just about the most harmless film you'll watch this year. It's not bad. It's not great. But it is unremarkable.The most interesting thing about it is the fact that it's set in the 90s, making it a bit of a nostalgia trip and a reminder of how strange yet glorious that era was with its backpack purses, homemade mixtapes consisting of songs dubbed from the radio, and mom jeans. It was organized lunacy and we loved it.

But the film relies on this too heavily. It becomes clearly very early on that there is nothing more compelling about it. Certainly not the story, which is essentially about a family dealing with its individual existential crises -- none of which are particularly groundbreaking. There's Dana (Jenny Slate), engaged to be married to her l, longtime beau , Ben (Jay Duplass), when she regrettably hooks up with an old flame Nate (Finn Wittrock) for a frivolous affair. Her sister Ali (Abby Quinn) is in an experimental phase of her life, halfway committing to everything including her boyfriend (Marquis Rodriguez), drugs, and her unsatisfying home life. Pat (Edie Falco) is the tough-as-nails matriarch who may have just realized how cripplingly unhappy she is at home. And Alan (John Turturro) is the "the good cop" of the family, the dad who's always been too worried about his daughters hating him to discipline them, and whose passivity has made him the wilted wallflower in the house, unseen and ignored. Each of them is propelled to make a series of poor choices that serve as the climax of the film.

The thing is, it's too play-by-numbers and aggressively unspecial. This is from the same director (Gillian Robespierre), who gave us the wonderfully unexpected Obvious Child starring Slate. But LANDLINE doesn't have the same magic. It's shockingly...basic. The story and characters are stale, even despite the solid cast, which is the film's only sell point. But good chemistry between the actors (Slate is always a sure bet) and witty one liners aren't enough for today's more sophisticated indie audience craving something that sticks in their minds long after watching it. LANDLINE is at times endearing, funny, and crushing, but it is instantly forgettable.

Rating: C- (*** out of *****)

Amazon Studios will release LANDLINE in theaters Friday, July 21.
Watch the trailer:


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