by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday July 24, 2017


'90s nostalgia and smart character work run rampant in Gillian Robespierre's sophomore film, "Landline," which once again unites the writer/director with her "Obvious Child" star, Jenny Slate.

Set in 1995, Slate plays Dana, the eldest sibling of the Jacobs family, engaged to be married to her caring but predictable boyfriend, Ben (Jay Duplass). Dana's younger sister, Ali (a fantastic debut performance by Abby Quinn), discovers that their father, Alan (John Turturro) is cheating on their mother, Pat (Edie Falco), prompting her and Dana to investigate the situation.

It sounds like a simple premise, but "Landline" is a film that is rich with development in character, theme and emotion. Both Ali and Dana discover parts of themselves during the film, inside and outside of their sleuthing -- Ali struggles with the typical teenage awakening of learning who you really are, Dana struggles with the typical twenty-something awakening to the realization that who you thought you were may be complete bullshit. The highlight here, hands down, is Edie Falco as the matriarch of the Jacobs family. A scene shared between these three women near the end of the film, sharing cigarettes and secrets while sitting on the floor of their family home's bathroom, is one of the most touching scenes I'm likely to watch this year.

The film does dig fairly deep into its vault of '90s throwbacks -- wired phones, wall-to-wall carpeting, floppy discs -- but it never veers too far into becoming a time capsule parody of itself. Its frequent nods to the time period are crafted yet subtle, and they ultimately represent a fun game of "I Spy" to play throughout the film, especially for people who grew up during that era.

Also admirable is the film's capturing of New York City, where Robespierre has an eye and passion for the city's myriad beauties akin to that of Woody Allen or Martin Scorsese. Sure, she hasn't reached that level yet, but she's definitely making a mark with her second film, of which I consider to be a huge step up from her debut entry. I'm excited for more from her (and I hope she brings Slate along for every ride).