Romance and relationships take their toll on members of a ’90s New York family in “Landline,” a hit-and-miss comedy-drama bolstered by two charming performances.
The Jacobs family are riding home from their summer cottage upstate when the movie starts. The parents, Patty (Edie Falco) and Alan (John Turturro), crack jokes with their two daughters — adult Dana (Jenny Slate), who’s engaged to the dull-but-nice Ben (Jay Duplass), and teen Ali (Abby Quinn). But the laughs cover up some deep insecurities.
Dana, a layout artist at Paper magazine, is getting cold feet over her engagement, especially when she runs into Nate (Finn Wittrock), a hunky guy she and Ben knew in college. Ali is facing teen pressures of boys and drugs and battling her parents over school and curfew. Then she finds on the family computer evidence that Alan is cheating on Patty.
Director Gillian Robespierre and her co-writer, Elizabeth Holm (who shared story credit on Robespierre’s 2014 comedy “Obvious Child,” which starred Slate), play up the ’90s atmosphere of phone booths, “Mad About You” references, grunge music and other period details. (This was perhaps the only movie at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to reference Hillary Clinton without mentioning Donald Trump.)
The humor and heartache don’t balance as smoothly as they could, particularly with the underwritten parent roles. Falco and Turturro are great, as always, but their biggest scene together feels too rote.
The scenes with Dana and Ali, on the other hand, are fresh and completely authentic, and Slate and Quinn (a winning newcomer who just signed onto the cast of the “Transformers” spinoff “Bumblebee”) show the strains and strengths of their sisterly bond as they each try to sort out their feelings about sex, adulthood and family.
* * 1/2
Sisters struggle to understand love and their parents in this uneven comedy-drama.
Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas
When • Opens Friday, Aug. 4
Rating • R for sexual content, language and drug use.
Running time • 93 minutes.