By Maya Pearson
In Gillian Robespierre’s newest indie dramedy, LANDLINE, the Jacobs family attempts to prevent an inevitable meltdown amidst the backdrop of a quintessentially nineties New York City. John Turturro (BARTON FINK, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?) and Edie Falco (NURSE JACKIE, THE SOPRANOS) portray Alan and Pat, parents trapped in a rapidly dissolving marriage. Relative newcomer Abby Quinn gives one of the film’s most memorable performances as seventeen year old Ali, who after discovering that her father is having an affair, works to escape her dysfunctional home life by growing up all too quickly. Meanwhile Jenny Slate (OBVIOUS CHILD) brings charm to a difficult character: eldest daughter Dana who is engaged to be married but not quite ready to settle down.
Robespierre and co-writer Elisabeth Holm previously collaborated with Slate on the offbeat romantic comedy OBVIOUS CHILD. Dana Jacobs is somewhat reminiscent of Slate’s Donna Stern as another intriguingly immature character who finds herself in the midst of a late stage coming-of-age story. LANDLINE, while definitely not without a strong comedic presence, takes a heavier tone to tackle a more complex story. The narrative is grounded in its subtle and multilayered approach to exploring of both romantic and familial relationships.
While the film comments extensively on romance and monogamy, it is truly female-driven and passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. The dynamic between Ali, Pat and Dana is richly realistic. All three actresses hold their own as their characters simultaneously push each other away and gravitate closer.
As the title suggest, the nineties are delivered at full force in the form of floppy disks, trench coats and, of course, landlines. The lack of instant communication draws attention to lengths the characters must go to connect with one another. But don’t let the time period throw you off—LANDLINE is a dramedy for now.