Family Hang-Ups

Conflict erupts at the tangled end of the cord-phone era

FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Landline
Opens Aug. 18

Roxy Theatre
3.5 out of 5

Jenny Slate barely lasted a season on Saturday Night Live. Judging from her post-SNL career, it’s a safe bet the show failed her and not the other way around.

Since leaving the long-running sketch comedy in 2010, Slate has carved out a niche as a voice actor (Bob’s Burgers, The LEGO Batman Movie). More importantly, her indie films have been slam dunks: Obvious Child succeeded at making abortion kind of amusing, and now Landline depicts the ’90s as edgier than they actually were.

Landline revolves around the Jacobs family, a presumably average, intellectually-minded New York clan who have become distant from each other and face individual crises on their own. Dana (Slate), the eldest, is becoming disenchanted with the idea of marriage to her fiancée, her bratty sister (Abby Quinn) discovers their dad (John Turturro) is having an affair, and the mom (Edie Falco) doesn’t know he’s cheating.

But when the quarreling siblings venture into this uncharted territory together, they discover a sense of camaraderie that wasn’t there before. They also unearth a newfound appreciation for their parents following a glimpse into their surprisingly turbulent inner lives.

While there’s nothing new about this emotional landscape, Landline is very well written and feels real. The dialogue — particularly between the siblings — is recognizable and all-too relatable. The film also does a very good job recreating 1995: nothing too on the nose, just ever-skipping CDs, half-assed fashion statements and the titular corded phone.

True-to-life characters drawing blood in every conversation deliver all the fireworks you need. Landline has enough gunpowder to put Furious 8 to shame. ❧