The big questions within Landline are how long a relationship can last? How strong can it be when faced with all the people you could be with, the failings of yourself or the other person, alongside the possibility of boredom? And lastly, can being chosen or choosing that other person be enough?
Dana (Jenny Slate), Pat (Edie Falco), and Ali (Abby Quinn) are at different stages of their relationships. Pat has raised her two girls, Dana and Ali, with husband Alan (John Turturro) and has reached a point of comfort where Alan feels she doesn’t even try to show or say she still likes, much less loves, him anymore. With Dana and her fiancé Ben (Jay Duplass), so comes the question if he can be the final choice? She is a likely 30 something-year-old woman. Is this man, who is nice but tamed in some areas, the one she wants to share her vagina with for the rest of her life?
Lastly, there is teenaged Ali. Considering what her parents and older sister are going through, so comes the question if she should even invest in Jed (Marquis Rodriguez). Yes, he is cute, she enjoys the sex, and spending time with him, but where is it going to go? How much of their relationship is based on convenience? Much less, considering the track record of her family, is it even worth fighting to stay together when history has shown they’ll likely be driven apart. If not by their own insecurities then by the option of another man or woman?
More often than not, when a sisterhood is in a movie, one sister is the focus and the other is usually the normal one who makes the other look crazy. That is, unless the non-lead sister has some sort of mental or emotional illness. With Landline, however, both sisters have their strengths and weaknesses and are an appropriate level of messy. Meaning, it isn’t so much drama this seems like a soap opera but so little you are bored as you sit through this.
Which you see in how Slate really shares her scenes with Quinn rather than tries to dominate her. What I mean by this is, Slate is clearly the lead and with that, you’d think Quinn would just be her kid sister who just rolls her eyes and questions why is she such a sorry excuse for an adult? But that doesn’t happen here. Instead, Slate arguably challenges Quinn and puts her on equal footing with her. Making it so neither can be the other person’s crutch or considered being used to solely further the other person’s story.
With that, you see a real chemistry and character development through both. By watching Dana, Ali comes to realize and develop a slightly pessimistic point of view towards relationships. If not she takes them so seriously that she doesn’t try to force something which is good for now, into some false expectation of something that could last forever. Then, when it comes to what Dana gets out of Ali, I think it is an appreciation for the truth. Ali isn’t much for lying or suppressing her emotions. She lets it all hang out and I think Dana comes to appreciate that. To the point, she uses that mindset with Ben. Which doesn’t lead to the best result, but Ali really pushes the idea that stating your truth and being consistent in it does wonders.
There is this video or article that was done dealing with how casting was handled for 2005’s Pride & Prejudice. It dealt with how casting was about not so much if the actors were good, but how believable it was they were family. To make a long story short, one of the main focuses was how similar the actors’ gestures and how they performed were similar. With Landline, that is seen in the form of family patterns.
In my mind, Alan and Pat’s relationship mirrors Dana and Ben’s. Both Alan and Dana want someone who is more exciting, passionate, and who hasn’t become comfortable in a routine. For with routine, so comes them seeking out someone who can liven up their lives again. A fear I think Ali develops for I think she begins to see Jed in such a way. He is a nice guy, fun to be around, but what happens when the fun is over? Will she still choose him when he becomes domesticated and maybe doesn’t want to go to raves or experiment with drugs? Something which probably leads to the final result of their relationship.
The Fears Which Come From Observation
Piggybacking off the Family Patterns sub-topic, naturally, from watching others you learn so much. Dana learns how wrong she is by taking note of what her dad is doing. Ali is taking note of what is wrong with relationships by the way her dad is treated by Pat, as well as how, even when nothing seems to be wrong, someone may cheat like Dana did. And whether it is verbalized or not, over the film you can see how each character noting the others actions change them. In ways that maybe hard to undo.
Despite Being Labeled a Comedy, It Isn’t Funny
This is a ding for the sake of a ding to be honest. For there is the usual NY/LA sense of humor. The kind where, to a certain point, you need to have experienced something similar to get it. Otherwise, the comedy falls flat.
On The Fence
It Isn’t Necessarily Clear Why These Women Chose These Particular Men
This is a female driven movie so, with that, you get why these men would choose these women to be in their lives. As for the other way around? It is hard to understand why Pat chose Alan, Dana picked Ben, but I wouldn’t say the same for Ali and Jed. If only because he seems like a teen heart throb.
So, focusing on the adults, you have to wonder what led and keeps Pat with Alan? She seemingly got with him for his potential rather than who he is/ was. Leading you to wonder did she ever fall in love with the man in front of her or how she dressed him up in her mind? Then with Dana and Ben? Honestly, there are times when you wonder if Dana is with Ben because he had the guts to ask her out, much less ask her to marry him.
I mean, yeah, factor in he is a nice guy, but that’s the bare minimum. What about what he has past that? For even with Alan, while he is a writer, it seems Pat finds his stuff insufferable. So what was the draw there? The same, well, he asked me out and he was a decent human being reason?
Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)
I’m having a hard time really choosing between Mixed and Positive for this one. In terms of why I wanted to label this as mixed, it is because it didn’t necessarily exceed my expectations in any way. I wasn’t walking into this expecting to laugh and I’m sort of used to men becoming cardboard when the leads are female. It is seemingly retribution for all the decades women were put in that position.
However, what lands this in a lower echelon positive label is that it makes you think. That, alongside showing how things repeat over generations, and affect the ones that follow. With that, while you may not get some deep and surprising film out of Landline, you do get one which doesn’t feel like it deserves to be thrown into the Mixed pile. For there are certain elements which truly make it seem an effort was made to be different, but not alienate its audience with indie BS.