I am at my third Sundance Film Festival. These are my reviews. Follow me on Twitter @bayerjeff.
Plot (courtesy of Sundance):
U.S.A., 2017, 100 min., color
Two sisters come of age in ’90s New York when they discover their dad’s affair—and it turns out he’s not the only cheater in the family. Everyone still smokes inside, no one has a cell phone, and the Jacobs finally connect through lying, cheating, and hibachi.
DIRECTOR: Gillian Robespierre
SCREENWRITERS: Elisabeth Holm, Gillian Robespierre
PRINCIPAL CAST: Jenny Slate, John Turturro, Edie Falco, Abby Quinn, Jay Duplass, Finn Wittrock
Review: With Robespierre’s feature debut, Obvious Child, there was a singular path which was to follow Donna (Slate) through her path to an abortion. It was a fantastic film with a specific focus. Landline is set in the ’90s and is a little messy. This works quite well because besides reminding us about pay phones and eyebrow piercings, it’s about infidelity. It doesn’t get much messier than that.
Dana (Slate) is engaged to Ben (Duplass). She’s having cold feet and drifts to a former crush. Dana’s dad, Alan (Turturro), is writing beautiful poetry to someone other than his wife (Falco). Stuck in this messy family is Ali (Quinn) who is up to the task of playing off of the extraordinary charismatic Slate, as sisters who are reconnecting through family mistakes. Honestly, I love Slate. She has such a loving freedom on screen. She snorts, and charms me. She cheats, and (almost) charms me. There are a few moments when I want more comeuppance in this film, but the journey of this family can ring true for a variety of people, not just New Yorkers, and not just those that are products of the ’90s.
Thankfully this film is stronger than the annoying subject of infidelity. There are plenty of powerful moments that can occur because of cheating partners, but it always has the inevitable selfishness and pain. Robespierre handles it like Slate acts, with a comfortable casualness. This isn’t to say the film takes cheating lightly, but Robespierre continues to play difficult subjects authentically.
It’s always nice to find a new director you can trust, and be excited for the next one. Robespierre is there for me now after two films. Hopefully, she keeps bringing Slate along for the ride.