It’s Labor Day in 1995, and Dana (Jenny Slate) and Ben (Jay Duplass) are attempting to have sex, and between the bugs, weird noises and Dana’s parents next door, it’s not going well. Dana and Ben emerge from the woods just in time to get in the car and leave the family vacation home. We meet Dana’s parents, Alan (John Turturro) and Pat (Edie Falco) and her younger sister, Ali (Abby Quinn). As the family drives back to the city, Alan and Dana revel in singing along with the radio. Pat is working on a crossword puzzle, and Ali is showing her disdain at the singing. Ben corrects Dana on a lyric to the song, and Alan backs him up. Ali and Pat argue over what schools Ali should apply for. The whole family starts arguing as the car drives down the highway.
Back in the city, Alan is working a play that he has been writing for quite a while. Pat walks by Ali’s room and realizes that she is still up. Pat demands that Ali hangs up the phone and goes to bed. Ali resists at first then gives in. The next day, Dana goes to work, complaining about a rash she got while vacationing. She discusses her love life with her co-worker, and it’s obvious that Dana and Ben are kind of in a rut. We cut to a bedroom where Ali is making up a song as she sings to her boyfriend Jed (Marquis Rodriquez) and he takes a puff or two on a pot pipe. She has Jed spray her with cologne before she leaves so that her mother ‘the drug sniffer’ won’t smell the pot on her.
Ali comes home, and that family gets ready for dinner. They discuss Dana reluctance to set a wedding date. Alan tells the family that he wants them all together when his play is read at a friend’s house. Neither Pat nor Ali reacts to this news with any excitement. We cut to Dana and Ben taking a shower together. They discuss that she might have gotten poison ivy at the vacation home. Dana and Ben go to a friend’s house for a party. Dana bumps into an old boyfriend, Nate (Finn Wittrock) and this chance encounter just might change Dana’s life, possibly destroying her marriage before it has even started.
There is a big problem with this film, no matter how much I love Jenny Slate (she should be in every ‘rom-com’ that is made from this point on), her character, Dana isn’t likable. Dana makes one mistake after another (if you can call cheating on her fiancé just a mistake) and never seems to learn from them. It’s as if co-writer/director Gillian Robespierre thought that because Slate, the actress, is sweet and lovable we would find Dana cute and adorable but in reality, we never can get behind anything that she does. Dana isn’t the only unlikable character; Alan (played by John Turturro) is having an affair with an unknown woman, and Ali is determined to find. Pat (played by Edie Falco) is always belittling her husband. Ali (played by Abby Quinn) is skipping out to go clubbing, taking drugs and talking back to her parents at a constant rate. The only character that is somewhat likable is Dana’s fiancé Ben (played by Mark Duplass) who comes off ok but a sad sack of a guy. These are severely dysfunctional people that seem to look for trouble.
The one stand out of this cast is Abby Quinn who is incredible as the high-strung little sister Ali. Quinn shows an excellent singing voice and is a joy to watch as the fiery young woman who feels that her parents are overbearing. Ali is convinced that nothing is going to hurt her, whether it’s the drugs that she takes, the bad influence her friends have on her and her determination to figure out who is her Dad’s mistress is. It’s a performance full of life, spunk, and Quinn nails the part.
The plot seems a little disjointed, trying to cover too much instead of focusing on the problems of Dana and Ben. Landline is funny at times and occasionally touching, but I wanted more heart and charm. I was disappointed in this movie because it comes from the same team that gave us the brilliant Obvious Child and has a cast that most films could only dream of, but Landline never quite comes together, making the film seem incomplete. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
Landline opens Friday at Regal Tara Cinema 4
For more of Mike’s reviews and interviews click here