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1995. When people were harder to reach.

Co-writer/director Gillian Robespierre and star Jenny Slate had one of Sundance 2014’s biggest hits with Obvious Child, and their reunion film, Landline, does what you hope a sophomore feature will do: it expands the canvas without softening the voice. It’s not as funny as Obvious Child, nor does it try to be; Robespierre is working with more serious themes and tones this time around, and proves just as adroit painting with those colors. If Obvious Child was her Annie Hall, this is her Hannah and Her Sisters.

She’s dealing with a similar kind of New York boho family, with an adult daughter (Slate), a teenager (the crackerjack Abby Quinn), a failed playwright/ad man father (John Turturro), and a power broker mother (Edie Falco). The parents are in a rough patch, and the script (by Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm) does something really tricky: you see right away how much the couple annoys each other, but they also still convey a glimmer of what they once had. Late one night, the younger daughter finds a bunch of love poems by her father, quickly realizes they were not for her mother, and tries to decide what to do with that information.

Landline plays the familial tension straight, which is a risk; this material could’ve easily been molded into a laugh-a-minute Idiot Plot comedy. But there’s real heartbreak in this story, and Robespierre isn’t afraid of it. Her movie is full of moments that ring with endless truth and tenderness, and of scenes where people try desperately to make things right, to do what they believe is expected of them, and can’t pull it off. She gives them the room to be full, complicated, flawed characters – or, as Slate puts it, “Just because I did one shitty thing doesn’t mean I do all shitty things.” This movie is wise, and witty, and wonderful.

Courtesy: Jason Bailey, Flavorwire

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Directed by: 
Gillian Robespierre
Running Time: 
Jenny Slate, John Turturro, Edie Falco, Abby Quinn, Jay Duplass, Finn Wittrock
Official site: 
Screenplay by: 
Gillian Robespierre, Elisabeth Holm

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