Thursday, July 27, 2017

Gillian Robespierre's sophomore effort, LANDLINE, hits South Florida theaters

Well, its credentials as a piece of American Independent Cinema are certainly flawless: actors the likes of John Turturro, Edie Falco and Jay Duplass, along with newer members such as Abby Quinn and Jenny Slate, the latter of whom director/co-writer Gillian Robespierre collaborated with a few years back on the funny, original and much better indie movie, Obvious Child. Their newest collaboration, LANDLINE, though it boasts a number of lovely moments and scenes, doesn't fare nearly as well overall.

Set in 1995, the movie opens on Labor Day, with some awfully laborious (and, yes, funny) sex taking place on screen. Ms Robespierre, shown at left, together with her co-writers Elizabeth Holm and Tom Bean, have fashioned a movie about family set back some 22 years, at a time when technology, computers, the internet (but not yet cell phones) were beginning to control our lives. This will initially make the movie a nice nostalgia trip for some of us. (Benihana, the restaurant most seen in the film, was also perhaps a bit more newsworthy then.)

The themes here, in addition to the perennially popular one of "family," are those of intimacy, fidelity, trust and betrayal -- and how important these actually are (or maybe aren't) to a successful, long-term relationship. All good -- if nothing we haven't encountered at the movies many times before.

When the family's younger daughter (Quinn, above right) discovers -- a little too easily, it seemed to me -- what looks like an affair their dad (Turturro, at right, two photos above) is having with another woman, she eventually apprises older sibling (Slate, above, left) of the goings-on.

They keep mom (Falco, above, center) out of it while they (sort of) investigate matters, even as the older daughter, though engaged to a nice fellow named Ben (Duplass, in bathtub below), nonetheless falls into an her own affair with an old friend she has recently encountered at a party (Finn Wittrock, at left in photo at bottom).

That's about it -- except that the chickens, as they say, do come home to roost. (Oh, there's a little drug-dealing here, too.) The problem is that nothing we see or hear is all that incisive, interesting, funny or moving. (It's certainly not original, either.) Performances are as good as can be, given the material, and the movie is never unwatchable. But we keep waiting for it to take off. Instead it stays firmly grounded until it finally rolls into its predetermined destination.

From Amazon Studios and running a little too long even at 97 minutes, Landline, after hitting the major cultural centers a week or so back, opens here in South Florida tomorrow, Friday, July 28, in the Miami areas at AMC's Aventura 24 and Sunset Place 24, Regal's South Beach 18 and the O Cinema Wynwood. The following Friday, August 4, it expands to Fort Lauderdale, the Palm Beach and Boca Raton areas at The Classic Gateway TheatreRegal's Royal Palm Beach 18 and Shadowood 16, the Living Room Theater, and the Cinemark Palace 20. Wherever you live across the country, just click here to find a theater near you.

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