Landline

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Landline Movie Poster Image
Family confronts infidelity in mature but uplifting dramedy.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 93 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Siblings fight, but they're also there for each other when it counts. Real love relationships, strong relationships can withstand serious challenges. Brief iffy messages about masculinity (one man calls his father-in-law-to-be too much of a "p---y" to cheat on his wife); also discussions about the ethics of fidelity ("monogamy is impossible," one character proclaims).

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are complicated and flawed; half of the main characters cheat on their partners, and all make iffy decisions. But family members are there for each other when the chips are down, and characters try earnestly to make amends for mistakes. There are no easy answers and a lot of gray areas.

Violence

Shouting, arguments, insults. References to violence in moments of anger: "I should chuck that f--king computer at your head." 

Sex

Couple has sex standing against a tree, as well as in a bed (noises, thrusting); they talk graphically about their orgasms and what she wants sexually. Both are briefly visible, nude, from the rear. A man offers to pee on a woman in the shower to cure her poison ivy; viewers see the stream. A daughter discovers her father's erotic letters to a woman who's not her mom. A man mentions a woman's desire to strangle him during sex. Teens sneak out of their houses and have sex; moaning and movements. A woman cheats on her fiancé, then carries on an affair. A long-married couple has sex (almost fully clothed) on a couch and then discuss his infidelity in graphic terms. 

Language

Frequent strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "douche bag," "c--t," and "p---y."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes and beer at parties. Teens smoke pot in multiple scenes; two snort heroin at a club. A teen goes to a scary building to buy more heroin, but the drug deal is interrupted by police. Two people smoke a joint at a bar. An adult woman drinks whiskey and Mountain Dew with her teenage sister. Parents let a teen order a large alcoholic drink at dinner. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Landline is a 1995-set indie dramedy about a family dealing with infidelity that has strong language, drug use, and mature sexual content but is ultimately uplifting and sweet. There are multiple scenes of characters -- unmarried and not, both adults and teens -- having sex in various locations (a couch, a bed, up against a tree) with noises and thrusting; one couple is briefly shown nude from the rear. There's also graphic sexual talk about climaxes, body parts, and cheating/affairs, and a man pees on his partner in the shower to clear up her poison ivy. A teen discovers graphic letters and poems written by her father; they're read repeatedly, with the words shown on screen. Teens snort heroin in one scene; later, one goes to buy more at a sketchy house but is caught and arrested. Teens also drink -- sometimes in front of parents -- and smoke cigarettes; adults smoke cigarettes, too, as well as puff on a joint at a bar and drink at parties and dinners. Characters sometimes make risky choices or act sloppy when imbibing. Language includes many uses of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as "a--hole," "bitch," "douche bag," and more.

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What's the story?

Three complicated women are at a crossroads in the 1995-set dramedy LANDLINE. Dana Jacobs (Jenny Slate) is floundering at work and unsure about her plans to marry fiancé Ben (Jay Duplass). Her mom, Pat (Edie Falco), feels invisible and unappreciated and is bored with her husband, Alan (John Turturro). And high school senior Ali (Abby Quinn) would rather go out clubbing than listen to her mom's lectures about college applications. But things change for the Jacobs family when Ali finds a stash of Alan's longing, erotic letters -- which were written to another woman. As the characters slowly sift through the wreckage of their family's relationships following the revelation, Dana, Pat, and Ali find new connections to each other -- and to their own more authentic selves. 

Is it any good?

It might seem contradictory to say that this fresh, funny drama is simultaneously airy and charming while conveying deep messages about partnership, fidelity, and family bonds. It's not usually this much fun to watch people who are this miserable, but the characters in Landline are so quirky, cute, and real that you can't help loving them even when they're doing awful things to the people they love. Alan's sins are writ largest, but Pat is a bit of a killjoy and a nag, Dana's drifting through a life she's not sure she wants, and Ali's alternately sneaking out to be with her boyfriend and tormenting her long-suffering mother. (Their relationship is made perfectly clear in a scene near the movie's beginning, when Pat asks Ali what her boyfriend was talking about on the phone. "I dunno, butt stuff," is the reply. Her surprised mother laughs. "Oh, I love you. Good night." Ali waits until her mom closes the door to mutter back, almost silently "Love you.")

The discovery of Alan's affair turns out to be the excuse each member of the Jacobs family was looking for to blow up their lives. Dana not so secretly wanted her staid relationship with Ben to change, Ali wanted her parents to know she wasn't the do-gooder they were hoping for, Pat wanted her daughters and her husband to see her as a person, not just someone who exists only to make other people's lives better. Slowly, they find that their relationships with one another are what carries them through life's problems. It may not be perfect at home, but at least the people there love you ... and are willing to dress in group Halloween costumes with you, even if that means wearing a garbage bag. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way Landline depicts sex. Is it loving and meaningful? Why do you think characters cheat on their significant others? What lessons are learned regarding adultery and commitment?

  • How are drinking and drug use portrayed? Are there realistic consequences for substance use/abuse? Why is that important?

  • How does the movie communicate the time and place where it's set (New York, 1995)? What does it show you to tell you where you are? Did you spot any anachronisms? How do you think the movie would change if it were set in the year it was released (2017)?

  • Why do you think so many movies are about families with problems? What about a dysfunctional/struggling family is more interesting than a happy and/or stable one? What episodes in your own family history might make for a good drama (or comedy)? 

  • Do you think the sisters show perseverance and/or teamwork in the movie? Why are these important character strengths? How does being siblings affect their relationship to each other and the type of support they can offer? 

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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