It’s 1995 – the time when people would jam out to music playing off CDs in record stores and have sex in the woods, even though they get jolted by the sensation of a bug on their skin. That previous sentence might have been catered to fit our main characters actions, who find out that their father is having an affair and judging by how I described our leads, you can already guess that it is a comedy. The dysfunctional-family subgenre is one that has been done time and time again, usually by filmmakers who bring nothing new to the table – which leads to the burning question of “will Landline break the streak?” Well, kind of.
I can appreciate that co-writer and director Gillian Robespierre (Obvious Child) lets people know that they’re in for with the first scene in Landline an awkward scene of humour with a charming cast. Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn seem to be familiar with the type of comedy Robespierre was going for because of how perfect they were either with each other or just embracing the script/humour – nearly every joke got a slight chuckle from me, mainly due to how truthful and relatable it all felt. There’s a certain lightness that the script captures which lets us feel emotionally connected to the characters. The younger sister is sneaking out and rebelling against her parents; the parents don’t enjoy each other the way the once did; the older sister just feels like her entire life is falling apart. There’s something in it for everyone!
The film moves at the speed of lightning, never over-staying its welcome. In fact, the pace was almost too fast. Most notably, there is a big reveal regarding a certain character but none of it feels that “big”. We never see this character beforehand which leads to no physical reaction when this arc is introduced into the story. It just gave me an overwhelming feeling that the script could have incorporated the character into the narrative earlier to make it more impactful. Aside from that one off-putting moment, almost every other scene is executed with the highest amount of dramatic precision. There were quite a few moments of dramatic tension that work exceptionally better than it would in any other film because of Robespierre and her seemingly personal direction.
I didn’t just like Landline because of how aesthetically pleasing its apparent extremely-subtle grain effect is – I genuinely enjoyed this offbeat take on the coming-of-age/dysfunctional family subgenre. It does get held back with certain aspects of the narrative and it does fall victim to being formulaic, but for those who are slowly attempting to expand their horizons slowly into more independent/non-mainstream cinema, I’d highly recommend it.