120. Landline

★★★

The thing that first stuck out to me about Landline is Jay Duplass not having a beard. The second thing that stuck out is that Jenny Slate seems to be much more comfortable romping around as a 1990s creative and romantic vagabond than she does in our current day. The third is that Edie Falco may be the ultimate matriarch of the big and little screen, grappling with the hardships of domestic motherdom while trying to keep her own passions alive better than any other actress today. The fourth is Jay Duplass not having a beard again (I mean, it’s so weird! You get so used to him having the beard that him without it is like seeing a husky without its coat. It just doesn’t feel right.)

There’s a lot of stuff that sticks out in Landline, a delightful Woody Allen/Noah Baumbach-esque comedy from relative newcomer Gillian Robespierre. That name may sound slightly familiar: Robespierre wrote and directed 2014’s Obvious Child, also starring Jenny Slate, and Landline is her second feature. Slate is the De Niro to Robespierre’s Scorsese, the Magic Johnson to Robespierre’s Pat Riley, the Morty to Robespierre’s Rick. She knows just the right buttons to push and the proper eyebrows to pierce on Slate to elevate her film to something really special, and prove herself a leading dramedy director.

Landline follows Dana (played by Slate) and her sister Ali (played by Abby Quinn) as they deal in the aftermath of learning their dad (John Turturro) is cheating on their mom (Edie Falco). The affair causes some severe emotional strain on Dana and Ali but also acts as a strange unifier between them. Dana is also engaged to Ben (Jay Duplass), whom she cheats on with her former beau Nate (Finn Wittrock).

But the joy of the Landline isn’t in navigating its lovestruck, emotionally-confused characters. We honestly just want to watch Slate and Quinn hang out on screen for as long as we can. The two have a palpable chemistry, a relationship so fresh and complex that’s its delightful to watch onscreen. Slate and Quinn often trade off between being the more responsible sister, having to clean up after the other’s mess or mistake. There’s no judgment shared between them. They see each other as curly-haired equals, sisters in arms, ready to lend a helping or hurting hand whenever need be.

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