I regret to say I’m no fan of Gillian Robespierre‘s Landline (Amazon/Magnolia, 7.21), which I saw last night at the Rodeo Screening Room. (I ducked it at Sundance last January.) And I’m saying this as a devout fan of Robespierre’s Obvious Child and particularly Jenny Slate‘s performance in that noteworthy 2014 film. Slate is also the star of Landline, and I’m sorry but I didn’t care for her character this time. I didn’t care for anyone‘s character in the entire film.
If I were to run into any of these guys at a party, I’d make up an excuse and bolt within 25 or 30 minutes. Why? All they talk and think about are themselves — their own little dwarf realms. Me, me, mine, mine, why, why…unhappy, vaguely pissed off, unsatisfied, fickle this, fickle that, etc.
Set in ’90s Manhattan, Landline is cut from the same basic cloth as Woody Allen‘s Hannah and Her Sisters — an episodic tale of a smartypants Upper West Side Jewish-Italian family (half-healthy, half-neurotic) and how they cope with infidelity and general middle-aged weltshmerz. It’s particularly about Slate’s Dana cheating on her fiancé Ben (Jay Duplass) with a glib lightweight type (Finn Wittrock) and how this affair precedes or somehow sparks an interest in Dana bonding with her younger, very bratty and sullen sister, Ali (Abby Quinn).
In the meantime the pater familias, John Tuturro‘s Alan Jacobs, is secretly boffing a middle-aged blonde, or actually not so secretly since his wife Pat (Edie Falco) gets wind about halfway through the film.
I just found the whole cast tedious and tiresome and flat-out dislikable. I can’t stand married characters who ask each other if they’re about to come — that’s one thing — and I despise any husband who offers to urinate on his wife’s upper leg in the shower in order to fend off poison ivy. It felt to me like the kind of typical Sundance indie that gives me a headache. I wanted to escape but I felt it would be unprofessional to do so. On top of which Tatyana was enjoying it (Landline being more or less a woman’s film) so I was stuck.
Tatyana: “I liked the movie, at least in part because it reminded me of my relationship with my slightly older sister and with my mother, who also dealt with infidelity early in her marriage. Excellent acting, very realistic, very truthful. I could feel the characters’ inner anxieties and emotions and longings. Love, infidelity, remorse, disillusion.”