IN THEATERS (SF) – “Landline”

Landline (2017; Dir.: Gillian Robespierre)

GRADE: B-

By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, July 28, at the AMC Kabuki in San Francisco, the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley and the Regency Cinema 6 in San Rafael.

Another spiked-punch punch-puller from Obvious Child auteur Robespierre, again headlined/saved by the electrifying Jenny Slate.  Less the lead than part of the ensemble this time, Slate plays Dana, jittery bride-to-be to a doughy schmuck (Jay Duplass) in the analog mid-1990s.  Just as Dana starts cheating on her fiancee with a mutual friend, her teenage sister Ali uncovers evidence of their father’s infidelity; meanwhile, Ali’s preternatural wisdom gets belied by some bad decisions of her own.  John Turturro and Edie Falco play the parents, but the film is stolen by Abby Quinn as Ali, portraying the perfect mix of emotional hostility, moral superiority and immature self-destruction.  Like Obvious ChildLandline brings a consistent energy without ever going anywhere, offering a fair amount of barbed insight and allowing room for the actors to breathe while also maintaining a low-key dramatic momentum.  It’s impossible for me to dislike a film that relies so heavily on 1990s alternative rock to set the mood, but it’s also impossible to deny that Robespierre once again falters in the finish.  Landline is the sort of film that heroically refuses to be the sort of film where everyone works out their problems by hugging and smiling, until suddenly it’s the sort of film where everyone works out their problems by hugging and smiling, the end.