Landline totally captures all my ‘90s nostalgia. Growing up in the ‘90s I never expected I’d be nostalgic for it. It certainly didn’t seem cool while it was happening, but now I miss going to the video store to look for movies and using slow dialup. The landlines are the least of it.
In 1995, Dana (Jenny Slate) and Ali (Abby Quinn) discover their father Alan (John Turturro)’s love letters to another woman. They debate telling their mother (Edie Falco) with whom they don’t have the best relationship, but coming of age things like Ali losing her virginity and Dana’s cold feet with her fiance (Jay Duplass) distract them.
They had me when they talked about spending three hours at Blockbuster and finally choosing Curly Sue. That’s my ‘90s! But they’ve also got the Mac OS with 3.5” discs, which I used at school (had PCs at home but still 3.5” floppies). I can totally imagine how Alan accidentally saved his love letters to someone else’s disc. The printer brings back memories.
For social nostalgia, there’s Hillary Clinton’s pink pantsuit. I’ll bet they thought that would have a different context when it played Sundance after the 2017 inauguration. Calling your own voicemail from a payphone was a thing we used to do. Not only did record stores still exist but they had listening stations to try to sell less mainstream artists. I recognize the Rolling Stone covers on Ali’s bedroom wall. They own VHS tapes of movies families in the ‘90s might own, as well as blank cassettes. The marquee of a movie theater features real deep cut titles. I could only confirm one was a real movie because I saw it in film school.
The jokes aren’t only based in the ‘90s. Slate does a good old fashioned spit takes. Raunchy comedy points out how unerotic outdoor sex or talking dirty actually is. Quinn is the major discovery here. She’s endearing, trying to grow into her own women despite understandable family frustrations, and she has great chemistry with Slate.
At its heart, Landline deals with really complex themes. It’s about the difficulty of forgiveness, and guilt. Writer/director Gillian Robespierre’s previous film was a bit more flashy. Abortion is as hot a button as you can get, so Obvious Child can’t really be topped. Landline still reaches the same depth with laughs and heart.