The first film that I saw at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival was called Landline, which is a comedic drama about a family of liars and cheaters in 1995. Gillian Robespierre makes her return to Sundance after her film Obvious Child, which received a very warm reception in 2014. Now, three years later, she and lead actress Jenny Slate are back with a very touching and mesmerizing comedy revolving around two sisters, their parents, and the messy relationships that they are all a part of. It’s a film about love and family, and the story studies those elements individually as well as together, but never in a way that felt recycled.
In the story, Dana Jacobs (Jenny Slate) is engaged to Ben (Jay Duplass) but is not sexually satisfied with the relationship. Upon meeting an old college sweetheart, temptation arises and she gets emotionally tangled up in lying and cheating. Her younger sister, played by Abby Quinn, is also in a relationship that causes trouble for her as she sneaks out, does drugs with him, and gets into trouble. In both of their relationships, they are sneaking away from the figure(s) who they are supposed to trust and be honest to; this sneaking out to be with their respective lovers gets them into trouble, but brings them close together. On top of all of that, their parents are clearly not getting along since they barely talk and tensions rise even further when the daughters discover that there may be a secret lover that their father has as well.
All of these “infidelities” allow for so much character growth as the family members interact together but also develop individually. For a film about cheating to have really any kind of ending, we have to see the characters learn that their decision was either correct or incorrect, healthy or unhealthy, warranted or unwarranted and why, and I think that the ending summarized very well the story that preceded it. To quote the person I sat next to, this movie was “adorable,” largely because of the well-developed characters who all deal with these problems that seem very real. The writing was great for just about every reason: not only did we get the great characters to follow, but the story put them through tests that allowed them to become even more three-dimensional and well-defined. However, none of that would have been possible without the outstanding cast who expertly portrayed their characters with an intimacy and honesty that is hard to find in most dramatic comedies.
Because this film was a dramatic comedy, the audience should feel the emotion as well as the humor quite often, and it was handled very successfully by Robespierre. Having seen a lot of comedy films, many of them don’t know how to handle drama and because of that, the plot will often seem silly and the ending convenient and flat. This film, which I would refer to as equal parts drama and comedy, delivers both with the heart and care that they (and the characters) deserved. Lead actress Jenny Slate was a riot, her character was so entertaining which grounded the film in that refreshing comedy that she brought, and she and Abby Quinn play sisters flawlessly, which also allowed for a lot of humor in the story. One thing that I loved about the film is that it felt very intimate the entire time, nothing ridiculous or huge happened that would’ve done crazy things to the story, it all stayed very small and endearing, which I respected. It’s easy to throw a character into a hospital or morgue to spice things up, but Robespierre didn’t need to do that to hit the audience with just as much emotion as either of those would have.
Overall, Landline was a movie that would have blown me away had I not expected great things being at Sundance, haha. The story and characters were very well-written and always kept me on my toes. I cared deeply about them throughout the film and I never felt as though they were simple plot devices for progressing the story; both the story and the characters seemed to fit together very well and made for a very humorous and heartwarming experience. After watching this film, I’m definitely interested in watching Obvious Child, and the rest of Slate’s films because she was just outstanding (along with the rest of the cast)! I’m going to give Landline and 8/10 and a green recommendation! Did you go to Sundance and see this film or any others? Let me know! As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!