Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sundance with Abe: Landline

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the fourth time. I had the chance to see a number of films and will be posting reviews of everything I see!

Directed by Gillian Robespierre
U.S. Dramatic Competition

Gillian Robespierre made her feature film debut with “Obvious Child,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. Based on her own short film, the movie starred Jenny Slate as a comedienne dealing with an unexpected pregnancy emerging from a one-night stand. The film was a huge success, and therefore it should surprise no one that Robespierre’s follow-up is another collaboration with Slate, this time expanding the cast to include an entire family going through their relationship and adulthood troubles, set against the backdrop of New York City in the very recognizable 1990s.

Dana Jacobs (Slate) is the older of two sisters. She is newly engaged to nice guy Ben (Jay Duplass) but finds excitement when she runs into an old friend (Finn Wittrock). Her sister Ali (Abby Quinn) hates school and does her very best to flaunt her mother’s authority when she can, spending time with a male friend, sneaking out to clubs, and smoking. Their mother Pat (Edie Falco) seems to find no joy in the world, and certainly none from her lazy husband Alan (John Turturro), whose secret floppy disk, which his daughters discover, suggests that he has been writing love poems to another woman for quite some time. Through their intersecting lives, each member of the Jacobs family tries to return to a good place.

“Landline” features a fun story that could work in any time period, but choosing the 1990s helps to make it its own. Dana skips work to rock out to a CD in a store during the day and checks her messages via a payphone on the street. Pat sees First Lady Hillary Clinton wearing a pink pantsuit on television and promptly buys one for herself. The nature of communication in that era – not so long ago – is humorous when reflected back on film, and those simpler times help make this film all the more entertaining. This isn’t a movie about missed calls or technology coming to the rescue, but rather the moment in which the film takes place is just as much a part of it as its characters are.

Slate, who has recurred on television shows like “Parks and Recreation” and “House of Lies,” is truly one of the funniest actresses working today. She plays Dana as living in her own world, believing that what she does is right and that she doesn’t need to grow up if she doesn’t want to. Opposite her, Quinn, in her third film role, is the real find, displaying enormous sarcastic ability and a promising comedic future. Falco and Turturro are fine, as is Duplass, but this is a film about sisters growing up into adults more than anything, and it’s a really fun one at that.


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