2017 Milwaukee Film Festival – Day Fifteen – LANDLINE
After fifteen terrific days, the 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival reached the end of the line. But, not before one final Spotlight screening in the sold out Oriental Theatre for Gillian Robespierre’s LANDLINE. LANDLINE was an appropriate capper to a film festival that clearly had an emphasis on films directed by women.
LANDLINE clearly relishes that it gets to tell its story from the female perspective. It’s no surprise after OBVIOUS CHILD was a success that Gillian Robespierre and Jenny Slate would be teaming up again. In LANDLINE, Gillian Robespierre clearly aims to expand that perspective by focusing on three women, part of the same family, at various stages of their lives. Edie Falco is the mother, a career go getter, and someone that just doesn’t settle. Jenny Slate is on the verge of marriage to a nice but safe guy and is having second thoughts. Abby Quinn is the teenager dealing with parties, romantic entanglements, irresponsibility, and being tempted by drugs. John Turturro, the patriarch of the family, might be having an affair which just adds to the emotional burden everyone is going through.
The female characters are all well defined, although Edie Falco clearly draws the short end of the stick in terms of being fully explored. We spend a lot of times with the sisters while the mother is left trying to figure out what’s going on with those two. Jenny Slate in particular gets a lot to do which ties into the main themes of the film as she starts up a wild fling with an old boyfriend. Her being pulled between excitement and safety, and the allures of each, is the strongest subplot of the film. And, it ties in neatly with them not necessarily condemning unconditionally what Turturro’s character may or may not be up to.
Arguably, there’s a stronger story there if Jenny Slate had just been the focus. There are more than a few laughs among the girls behaving badly situations of the film, but we’ve seen the teenager struggling to grow up a million times and this is handled in a somewhat generic manner. EDGE OF SEVENTEEN handled it a lot better within the last year, for instance. And Edie Falco doesn’t really come into a distinctive focus until the end. The sisterhood theme is often endearing, but there’s very little new there.
Plus, while the film is set in the 1990s, they really don’t do a whole lot to provide a reason for that in the film. I suppose LANDLINE is about characters having to talk to each other, honestly, without digital intermediaries, but it seems to me that you could just have characters talk to each other. The nods to the 1990s trends and fads are amusing, but never really amount to anything more than that.
Still, there’s a lot of warmth and good work in the film. The story is a bit flimsy, but the efforts of all involved are committed. It’s enough to make the experience enjoyable even if LANDLINE ends up on nobody’s top ten list at the end of the year.
And that wraps up this year’s coverage of the Milwaukee Film Festival. We’ll be covering it next year again. It’s only about 11 months away. 2018 promises to be a big year for the Milwaukee Film Festival as it will be celebrating its tenth year of rapid growth and will take over running the Oriental Theatre next July.
Full coverage of this year’s festival can be found here.
A quick wrap up.
Best Films: LUCKY, COLUMBUS, FACES PLACES, RAT FILM
Biggest Surprise: CHASING BUBBLES
Best Value Added Screening: THE LOST WORLD (1925)
Biggest Disappointment: SCHUMANN’S BAR TALKS
Worst Film: WITHOUT NAME
Biggest Regret: Not seeing TAMPOPO with an audience.
Milwaukee Film was very kind in granting us all sorts of access to the festival. You can follow Milwaukee Film at their website. If you liked our coverage, let us know below. Or, better yet, let Milwaukee Film know.
Otherwise, Where the Long Tail Ends is going to shift back to our regular programming. Look for a Halloween episode of Still Watching the Skies to drop in the next few weeks.