Com­edy pays ho­mage to a by­gone N.Y.

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Ann Hor­na­day Linda Kallerus, Ama­zon Stu­dios/Mag­no­lia Pic­tures

★★★5 Rated R. 96 min­utes.

With her cracked-black­pep­per voice, elas­tic fea­tures and as­ton­ish­ing will­ing­ness to go there, Jenny Slate may be the clos­est thing her gen­er­a­tion has to its own Lu­cille Ball. She’s bawdier, for sure; as she proved in her break­out fea­ture, the 2014 rom-com “Ob­vi­ous Child,” she ut­terly re­fuses to ob­serve the tra­di­tional niceties, whether she’s mak­ing off-color jokes about abor­tion or air­ing dirty laun­dry in the most un­sa­vory sense of that term.

In “Lan­d­line,” she works again with Gil­lian Robe­spierre, who di­rected “Ob­vi­ous Child” and, as in that film, wrote the script with Elis­a­beth Holm. In this New York-set dra­matic com­edy, the sub­ject mat­ter isn’t quite so in­cen­di­ary.

Here, Slate plays the good girl, a smart young woman named Dana who’s en­gaged to a men­sch (Jay Du­plass) and hold­ing down a rea­son­ably good job at Paper mag­a­zine. It’s Dana’s lit­tle sis­ter, Ali (Abby Quinn), who’s the prob­lem child: a teenager dab­bling in petty crimes, mis­de­meanors and sex­ual ex­plo­ration while liv­ing at home with her emo­tion­ally es­tranged par­ents. (The movie is dis­trib­uted by Ama­zon Stu­dios. Ama­zon chief ex­ec­u­tive Jef­frey P. Be­zos owns The Wash­ing­ton Post.)

That dys­func­tional cou­ple is played by Edie Falco and John Tur­turro in per­for­mances that find both brit­tle hu­mor and wist­ful pathos in the at­ten­u­a­tion that be­dev­ils a once-edgy cou­ple who used to snort coke and at­tend night court — “to watch the hook­ers and pimps get ar­raigned” — but who have now set­tled, in all the wrong ways. “Lan­d­line” isn’t about a mis­er­able fam­ily as much as it’s about mis­er­able in­di­vid­u­als who are stuck with one an­other, un­will­ing to tell each other the truth, but un­able to find any­one else who could pos­si­bly un­dera stand it.

When a cer­tain char­ac­ter dis­cov­ers that some­one else is hav­ing an af­fair, “Lan­d­line” turns into a who­dunit — or, more ac­cu­rately, a who’s-do­ing-it. As a wry cham­ber piece of un­spo­ken se­crets, lies and be­tray­als, this com­edy of sharp-el­bowed manners shares cin­e­matic space with the tartly ob­ser­vant films of Woody Allen and Ni­cole Holofcener.

In fact, it would all seem a lit­tle de­riv­a­tive, were it not for the fact that Robe­spierre has set the story in 1995, lend­ing it pe­riod de­tails large and small that are sure to send cer­tain au­di­ences into rap­tures of ironic nos­tal­gia. With its dot-ma­trix print­ers, Block­buster Video stores, work­ing pay phones and ref­er­ences to “Mad About You” and book clubs, “Lan­d­line” presents the au­di­ence with mov­ing dio­rama of a long-lost Is­land of Man­hat­tan, whose denizens once walked up­right, in­stead of curv­ing their faces down­ward into tiny self­iso­lat­ing screens.

“Lan­d­line” even­tu­ally takes on the larky but wrench­ing con­tours of a story about chil­dren grow­ing up way too soon and adults los­ing their most cher­ished il­lu­sions. Slate and Quinn are com­pletely be­liev­able as sis­ters who oc­cupy a space be­tween twin­like close­ness and alien­ation. Their char­ac­ters of­ten grate at the au­di­ence as much as they do each other, but their lack of self­aware­ness, even at its most re­pel­lent, is part of the film’s mes­sage: that ul­ti­mately, we can never re­ally know some­one else, even when we’re liv­ing on top of them in a snap­ping, grouchy puppy pile.

Slate isn’t the star of “Lan­d­line,” but her daffy, un­pre­dictable pres­ence keeps it fizzing while her co-stars, es­pe­cially Quinn, de­liver brave, nervy per­for­mances.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.