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Posts Tagged ‘Jay Duplass’

Jenny Slate, Abby Quinn

“LANDLINE”  My rating: B-

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R

With “Obvious Child,” her 2014 feature writing/directing debut, Gillian Robespierre achieved the near impossible, delivering a bittersweet comedy/drama about a young woman who opts for an abortion.

Her sophomore effort, “Landline,” is equally ambitious, if not quite so successful.

The topic here is infidelity and its repercussions.  There’s some angst tossed around, yes, but this mostly low-keyed comedy keeps its eye on notion that sometimes marital trauma ends up being better for everyone. (Robespierre has said in interviews that both she and co-writer Elizabeth Holm saw their parents’ marriages break up because of adultery…but that in the long run everyone was better off for it.)

Set in the pre-cell phone ’90s,  the film centers on the four members of the Quinn family in New York City.

Father Alan (John Turturro) is a advertising copywriter who really wants to turn out great poetry and prose.  Mother Pat (Edie Falco) has her hands full with their 17-year-old daughter Ali (Abby Quinn), a bad-tempered rebel specializing in ditching classes, smoking dope and experimenting with sex.

Their oldest daughter, Dana (Jenny Slade, star of “Obvious Child”), has already moved out and is living with her fiancé. She seems to be as straight and uptight as Ali is angry and adventurous; when uncomfortable Dana erupts in helium giggles. Concerned that her life’s turning into a long slog, she suggests to fiance Ben (Jay Duplass) that they have sex during a hike in the woods. All they get for the effort is a bad case of poison ivy.

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The outcasts of Table 19 The outcasts of Table 19 (left to right):

The outcasts of Table 19 (left to right): Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Stephen Merchant, Anna Kendrick, Tony Revolori

“TABLE 19”  My rating: B-

90 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

If you can get past a few improbabilities (not difficult, given the solid cast), “Table 19” offers a sneakily compelling blend of farce and realism.

The setup could have been pulled from almost any TV sitcom: Six individuals have been invited to a wedding but at the reception find themselves seated at the furthest table from the action. It’s pretty clear that they’ve been assigned to wedding Siberia.

Our protagonist is Eloise (Anna Kendrick, who has the knack of making a crying scene both touching and hilarious). Until  two months ago she was the designated maid of honor and the long-time squeeze of the bride’s brother, Teddy (Wyatt Russell).

But Teddy dumped her (via email, for crissakes) and now, after retreating into a funk, Eloise has shown up to claim her seat — at far-flung Table 19.

Her fellow exiles include a bickering couple (Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson) who are only there because of a distant business connection with the bride’s father; the bride’s former nanny (June Squibb); the groom’s socially inept cousin (Stephen Merchant), a former jailbird (for embezzlement) now living in a halfway house; and a teen dweeb (Tony Revolori…he was the bellboy in “Grand Budapest Hotel”) desperate to lose his virginity in what he has been told is the sexually-charged atmosphere of a wedding party.

“Table 19” works not only because of the deliciously droll performances, but because director Jeffrey Blintz (who hit the documentary sweet spot with 2002’s “Spellbound” before turning to TV’s “The Office”) and co-writers Jay and Mark Duplass (“The Puffy Chair,” “Baghead,” “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” HBO’s “Togetherness”) are so sneaky about giving us broadly comic characters and then methodically revealing the humans underneath.

The film sets us up to expect standard-issue plot developments, then yanks out the rug with unexpected twists and character issues.

Don’t want to build up “Table 19” too much…its pleasures are modest ones. Yet  the ability to leave audiences hovering somewhere between a snort and a sob should not be dismissed.

Especially in the armpit months of the film release calendar.

| Robert W. Butler

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