The wistful family drama of Landline almost chokes on its own sense of nostalgia. Set in the mid-90s, the film follows a family as it slowly implodes. Oldest daughter Jenny Slate is having a quarter-life crisis dealing with a grown-up world she isn’t ready for and a fiancé (Jay Duplass) she’s not sure if she wants to marry. Teenage sister Abby Quinn is sneaking out at night, doing all the bad things parents worry their kids are doing. Dad John Turturro is a passive and bored creative. And mom Edie Falco is a woman on the verge. Despite how well-executed, it’s still a bit overstuffed and exhausting.

Director Gillian Robespierre reunites with her Obvious Child star in Slate, and the two clearly work well together. Slate is at her dry, whiny witty extreme, but is still charming and real, heartbreaking even in some of the more dramatic moments. And the relationship between her and Quinn is the best part of the movie. The side stories (mom and dad’s really) don’t get enough time or focus to amount to much of anything and despite Falco and Turturro’s best efforts, are really just pauses from the main thrust of the movie.

The slavish way Robespierre seems to highlight exactly HOW 90s! everything was is the most distracting thing about the film. Floppy disks, payphones, CDs and yes landlines get the spotlight rather than feeling like organic canvas pieces. And the film meanders without a clear focus, even as Falco dancing on her own in a dank bar is well-shot and performed set piece.

It’s a cute movie, but one that’s a better fit for a quiet evening in front of the TV rather than for a big screen excursion.

My Grade – C

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