As part of the February Challenge with Big Tuna, I was tasked with watching Landline (2017). Unlike the first film I saw for the five movie challenge, which was Fifty Shades Freed (you can read my scathing review HERE), I actually wanted to see this one. Directed by relative newcomer Gillian Robespierre, the film features excellent performances, tons of laughs, a little bit of ‘90s nostalgia, and an interesting insight into relationships.
Landline is an engaging, laugh-out-loud comedy with heart
Ali (Abby Quinn) is in her last year of high school and is constantly butting heads with her mother (Edie Falco) and older sister Dana (Jenny Slate). After a night of partying, Ali accidentally finds a floppy disk full of poems her father (John Turturro) had written for a woman named “C”. Meanwhile, Dana is having doubts about Ben (Jay Duplass), her fiancé, and the two sisters find comfort with each other for what seems like the first time.
There are really three relationships being analyzed in this film. The marriage that is clearly falling apart, a relationship at a major turning point, and young lovers just starting to discover exactly what love is. The last one takes shape with Ali and her friend, Jed (Marquis Rodriguez), who are just beginning to discover their romantic interests. Yet, Ali is using the relationships of her parents and her sister to gauge the point in all of it. In many ways, this film tackles three coming of age stories, and each earns its own outcome.
It’s all about character
It is not easy juggling two lead characters, and there are moments where we are with one of them far longer than the other. However, Robespierre does a solid job with the characters and making the three stories weave together at the right times. None of the characters are innocent, and at times they do things that could easily make the audience dislike them. Fortunately, they come across as real people who make mistakes and learn from them. It what makes a story like this work in the end. By the end, I felt extremely connected with all the characters from the film. I was especially surprised by the odd family unit that started off so disconnected, after seeing where they end up.
Both Slate and Quinn give excellent performances. Many of the best moments feature the two of them simply being sisters. Even their opening argument in the car where Ali can’t help but point out a stain on Ben’s pants demonstrates the chemistry the actresses have with one another. Whether they are dressing up in trash bag California Raisin costumes and trick-or-treating at far too old an age or drunken swimming, they come across as if they were really sisters. Of course, Turturro and Falco both give excellent performances – Falco especially, who has to come off as such a hard-ass while still showing enough tenderness to garner some sympathy from the audience. She is able to deliver on that dichotomy and make her arc as Pat almost as meaningful as Dana’s with far less screen time.
Overall, I really enjoyed Landline. In fact, like many films that are a little more subtle with their points, I’ve grown to like it more upon reflection. There is plenty to keep the audience engaged while watching, but it also leaves you with things to discuss and ponder. Landline earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating and for Big Tuna on films it gets the grade of “B”.