Days off are typically reserved for movie days! Today’s screening was Landline, a film by Gillian Robespierre that explores the complexities of adult relationships and growing up -with a 90’s New York City backdrop.!This film like many others entering theaters this summer, was a Sundance Selection (that I unfortunately didn’t see at Sundance). I patiently waited for this movie and wasn’t disappointed.
In the year 1995, we’re introduced to a dysfunctional Manhattan family as they go through everyday life and navigate their relationships. Pat (Edie Falco) and Alan (John Turturro) have a rocky marriage, the rift fueled by their growing differences. Over the years, Pat has been overrun by familial duties and pressures from her job, and Alan feels he has lost Pat, and looks to fill the void elsewhere. Dana (Jenny Slate) is the straight-laced older sister- who has settled into a predictable life with her fiance Ben (Jay Duplass). Ali (Abbie Quin) is a rebellious, cynical teenager who often butts heads with her family members over her wild lifestyle and lack of concern about her future.
At the beginning of the film, Dana goes through a personal crisis when she runs into an old college friend- Nate (Finn Wittrock) and starts to call her life into question. It’s obvious from the start that she is worried about her future with Ben. As the film progresses, Dana begins to unravel bit by bit, concerned about who she has become and who she wants to be. She begins a steamy affair with Nate- using it as an escape from Ben- avoiding him completely for two weeks.
Meanwhile, Ali discovers that her father has been also been having an affair… through some files of risque poetry on a floppy disk. Unsure of the circumstances, Ali and Dana keep the secret to themselves. At Alan’s live reading of his play, the women discover who the mysterious “C” is mentioned in the letters- a woman named Carla who is part of Alan’s writing group. Alan works at McCann Erickson as a copywriter, but moonlights as a playwright. He isn’t a very good playwright, as noted by Pat’s indifference to his live reading.
After the live reading, Dana breaks off her relationship with Nate over their differences in opinion over her father’s affair. Dana feels guilty, while Nate believes that humans are incapable of monogamy. While he was an exciting distraction for Dana, Nate wasn’t who he seemed to be.
On Halloween night, everything comes to its climax. Afraid of being like her father, Dana admits to Ben that she cheated on him- and he reacts as predicted. Pat comes home after a solo night out and confronts Alan about his affair- of which she has known about all along. After a heated argument, the couple decide to separate. After a crazy night out, Dana and Ali return home to find Pat in the bathroom, completely vulnerable- a foil to her hard exterior throughout the film.
Regretting her decisions, Dana fights to win Ben back. He’s extremely cold at first- which is understandable, but overtime he warms back up, and they reconcile. At the conclusion of the film, Ali and Dana’s bond is stronger, and while Pat and Alan are separated, Alan is still an active part of their lives.
I like how Landline shows that women can flake before marriage too and have second thoughts. Like men, women cheat and are imperfect in relationships. This film highlights that many things in life are not black and white- and that is how the film ends. Should Ben have taken Dana back? Not unlike real life, infidelity is a complex subject. If you’re in a deeply committed relationship, it’s not always easy to leave someone who has had an affair. Can relationships plagued by infidelity recover? Yes they can but its really up to each couple how they chose to move forward. Can two people who love each other deeply grow a part overtime? Most definitely. Alan and Pat’s marriage seems doomed from the beginning of the film and its no surprise when they separate. Romance is a pretty strange thing- especially when it becomes a long-term commitment.
ADRIANA, THE CINEMA SOLOIST