“Landline” is a smart comedy with a clever title. Landlines are connected to home, and home and familiar relationships ground us. The setting is the big city circa 1995. Sisters, Dana (Jenny Slate) and Ali ( Abby Quinn), have Jersey mouths on them. We begin on Labor Day with mom and dad ( John Turturro and Edie Falco) and girls singing in the car. Sister spats ensue. Dana is living with her fiancée Jed, and they have just had “tree sex”. Younger sis spots telling stains and shows her distain and knowledge for all to hear. Thus we begin.

Ever since, “What About Mary” modern comedy strives to “gross out” viewers for humor’s sake. Here, screenwriters Elisabeth Holm and GillinRobespierre have Jenny Slate with poison ivy ( the aftermath of sex against a tree) in the shower with Jed ( Jay Duplass ), who decides it is beneficial to pee on her pustules. She likes it; they laugh, and the play goes on. But not before Dana slips up with an old flame ( Finn Wittrock), and is told by her younger sis that their Dad (John Turturro ) is also having an affair. Now, the sisters must bond to protect their mom ( Edie Falco). All the time Dana questions: Is every member of the Jacobs family deigned to be a cheater ?

“Landline” is fresh and smaltzy at the same time. All the characters are extremely likeable: stalwart and fragile, wise and silly. Paradoxes in theme abound, too. In one scene,Jenny muses on adult choices. She tells Jed that one of her girl friends wanted to go on a ski-mask date:”I want to know your personality before I know your face.” kind-of-thing. Jed intuits Dana’s qualms, but nervously hangs in there. Journalist Dana plays hooky from her lay-outs and ends up in the music store where she ran into old-lover Nate. He is a charmer, and well, music is a big part of the Jacobs family life. “You dance to world music” brings on more than Jenny’s belches and snorts. Meanwhile, Jed reads the Hammacher-Schlemmer catalogue.

“Landline” certainly captures the decade before cell phones. The acting is memorable on all fronts. No weak links here. When Dana moves back home to both examine her choices and to look after mom, Falco sadly muses:” I am supposed to be planning her wedding, not feeding her Lucky Charms.” John Turturro on a rowing machine is funny,too. His “orgasmic poetry” less so. Abby Quinn is the daughter who calls her mom a drug sniffing dog and leaves lies like ” left early for student government meeting” on her pillow. Yet, as Ali, she never seems to have to ask “What just happened?”. She,the youngest, asks her unfaithful Dad,” Did you ever think that Carla ( the mistress) is filling a void you created?”

In a film of 97 minutes, fidelity is defined as ” loving a life where we are always choosing one another.” Heartfelt performances from people flailing with their choices. Healthy self -interest and few tailspins.


Dueling values, familiar battles, and a seven-year-old math prodigy, who needs what all children need~ to know that they are loved~ are the spokes of this rather run-of-the-mill custody courtroom drama. Abandonment issues aside,”Gifted” deals with using another’s talent for self-aggrandizement. The acting sets this film apart. Marc Webb’s directing is laudable.

The villain grandmother (Lindsay Duncan) is a haughtily clueless intellectual. The script has made her British. Your guess may be the same as mine! Her money gives her power, and now she wants a legacy in academia that her gifted daughter kept from her.

Her grand-daughter Mary, played remarkably by McKenna Grace is the second math prodigy in this very bright, but depression ridden family. Both Mary’s mother and her grandfather have taken their own lives. Blaming the cold, intellectually ambitious matriarch is a tad too simple. Even though,I can see viewers using the “being Evelyn” every time someone acts superior by using a snarky, putdown. Evelyn’s best rhetoricals are thrown at her son:” This god-forsaken mosquito hutch was a conscious choice?”

Uncle Frank (Chris Evans) has been given sole custody of the certainly precocious and often bratty Mary. He is a drop-out philosophy professor who repairs broken boat engines like he has energized his orphaned niece. As a now laid-back Floridian, he attempts to normalize the abnormal. A pet cat named Fred, a loving neighbor and sometimes sitter, outdoorsy activities, a piano, disco all help keep Mary’s head out of the math theorems and quadratic equations. Mary knows she is different. Uncle Frank is trying to preserve her childhood while still home-schooling the young savant in Trachtenberg methodology.

School placement becomes an issue. Jenny Slate plays her classroom teacher. A romance develops with Frank. She becomes a pivotal figure when she sees a one-eyed cat poster and acts accordingly.

As Evelyn focuses on the “The Seven Great Millenium Problems In Mathematics” and salivates over the Nobel Prize, her family falls apart. Somehow it is she who has not thought things through.

My favorite scene takes place in a maternity ward. Frank knows how to teach by showing, not just telling. When Mary stops jumping up and down and asks, ” Can we stay for another?”, there is not a dry eye in the theater.

This is not a great movie, but it is a crowd pleaser. The sound track is horridly overdone, but the lessons broached are worthy of a family hug.