LAN­D­LINE, drama, not rated, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 2.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

The sopho­more ef­fort from the evoca­tively named writer and di­rec­tor Gil­lian Robe­spierre( Ob­vi­ous Child) re­turns us to the com­mu­ni­ca­tions chal­lenged days of them id-1990s, when ubiq­ui­tous cell­phones had not yet wiped out the last shreds of in­di­vid­ual pri­vacy and un­reach­able in­de­pen­dence.

There is a scene early in the movie that will res­onate with peo­ple of a cer­tain age: An irate fa­ther storms into the bed­room where his sulky teenage daugh­ter is chat­ting on the phone, and rips the in­stru­ment from the wall. The lan­d­line that lends this movie its name is ba­si­cally there to fix the story in time, and Robe­spierre and her cast and pro­duc­tion team do a good job of recre­at­ing an era so re­cent that it’s a bit of a shock to re­al­ize how dead and gone it is.

The story re­volves around the Jewish-Ital­ian Ja­cobs fam­ily, par­ented by dad Alan ( John Tur­turro) and mom Pat (Edie Falco), with two daugh­ters — the twenty-some­thing Dana ( Jenny Slate of Ob­vi­ous Child) and the teenage Ali (Abby Quinn). It’s a con­cen­tra­tion of fine act­ing in the ser­vice of an orig­i­nal­ity-de­prived set­ting, the ur­ban angst and youth cul­ture much ex­plored by film­mak­ers like Whit Still­man (The Last Days

of Disco) and Richard Lin­klater (Dazed and Con­fused) dur­ing the decade in which this pic­ture is set.

Re­la­tion­ships, and the ties that fail to bind, are the port­fo­lio here. Us­ing the shared fam­ily com­puter one night, Ali dis­cov­ers a cache of erotic love po­ems writ­ten by her fa­ther to an un­named woman. She and Dana try to sleuth out the se­cret while keep­ing it from their mother. Mean­while, Dana, en­gaged to the nice, nerdy Ben ( Jay Du­plass), falls off the fi­delity wagon into a pre­mar­i­tal jit­ters fling with an old flame (Finn Wit­trock,

The Big Short), while Ali ex­per­i­ments with un­com­mit­ted sex with a high school pal. Only mom seems to be above this sex­ual fray, but she’s a driven busi­ness­woman who treats her hus­band with con­tempt and has long since for­got­ten what at­tracted her to him in the first place.

What the movie lacks is a com­pelling sense of why it needed to be made, but it fills out its lin­ea­ments with a script that lands some good di­a­logue. Robe­spierre may not be revo­lu­tion­ary, but she has a solid bour­geois han­dle on what she’s do­ing. — Jonathan Richards

Bath­room van­i­ties: Abby Quinn, Edie Falco, and Jenny Slate

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