If you don’t love the 2014 comedy Obvious Child, there’s a good chance it’s only because you haven’t taken time to see it. Writer/director Gillian Robespierre’s gloriously human comedy about a young comedian (Jenny Slate) who tries to balance life and love with her decision to have an abortion is an asbsolute delight. Now Robespierre and Slate have re-teamed for the family comedy Landline, taking us all back to the ‘90s in the process.
Landline, which landed a $3 million acquisition from Amazon after a buzzworthy Sundance debut in January, follows sisters Dana (Slate) and Ali (Abby Quinn). The two aren’t close and they’ve each got their own issues, until an unexpected discovery brings them together. It seems their father (John Turturro) might be having an affair and the sisters are determined to confirm their suspicions without alerting their mother (the always incredible Edie Falco). So, the sisters begin to bond over this mutual secret, confronting Dana’s fears about her engagement and Ali’s rebellious streak in the process. Here, against the backdrop of 1990s Manhattan, Robespierre’s distinct blend of awkward comedy and heartwarming sincerity unfolds in yet another film.
It would be very easy to brand the film as an exercise in '90s nostalgia. All the ingredients are there, from floppy disks to dot matrix printer paper to the California Raisins to Spacehog’s “In the Meantime” on the soundtrack. While all those elements are there and they’re certainly delightful, Robespierre is after something deeper. The '90s setting is there to simplify the cheating storyline, cutting out things like Facebook and text messages. That paves the way for Robespierre’s intimate storytelling, connected by good old-fashioned phone cords and the dysfunctional love that arises when two sisters have to navigate their shifting realities together.
Landline arrives July 21. Check out the trailer below.