LANDLINE (2017, Gillian Robespierre)
Warning: might cause a serious case of déjà vu or at least a flashback to THE SQUID AND THE WHALE — New York City family, set 20 years before the movie was made, the dad is a failing writer undercut by his wife, the two kids react negatively to their parents’ marriage upheaval while exploring their own sexualities, uneven but interesting mix of comedy and drama, even a scene where the dad can’t find parking on his block. If Holm & Robespierre’s screenplay wasn’t directly influenced by Baumbach’s, the ghost of that great 2005 film haunts this in every frame.
What LANDLINE has going for it in the originality department, however, is the terrific sibling bond between Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn, the latter of whom seems destined for stardom with this breakout role. Their scenes together strike an earnest and believable chord of sisterly love and curiosity, and when the story slows down so the two of them can go swimming or braid each other’s hair and dance around stoned, the film crackles. But when some Duplass comes wandering in to remind us that the movie is still a lugubrious meditation on fidelity and relationships struggles, back down into the bog it goes.
John Turturro and Edie Falco are perfectly cast as the parents and turn in fantastic supporting performances, even when the script does saddle them with a couple of acting-class argument scenes. Slate, so terrific in Robespierre’s OBVIOUS CHILD, lets the ensemble take over more, ceding screen time so that her weird and infectious personality doesn’t dominate the tone. She’s still a force to be reckoned with, and the reason it’s worth seeing this eventually (you can wait for Netflix) is for her unpredictable reactions and lack of movie star self-absorption — as well as Quinn’s zero-fucks-given caustic abrasiveness. THE SQUID AND THE WHALE does win this battle in the end, but it’s not like it was a blowout or anything.