‘Landline’ masks a message of family togetherness in crass vulgarity

Jojo Whilden, Amazon Studios

Abby Quinn, Jenny Slate and John Turturro in “Landline.”

“LANDLINE” — 2½ stars — Jenny Slate, Jay Duplass, Abby Quinn, Edie Falco, John Turturro; R (sexual content, language and drug use); Broadway

“Landline” is a crass portrait of a dysfunctional family in pre-internet New York City.

Alan (John Turturro) is the patriarch, a veteran ad man who writes poetry and performs plays on the side. He’s having an affair with one of the women he acts with.

His wife, Pat (Edie Falco), is the closest thing “Landline” has to an innocent victim. Her only crime is that she allows Hillary Clinton to inspire her wardrobe.

Alan and Pat have two daughters. Dana (Jenny Slate) is a college graduate, engaged to a man named Ben (Jay Duplass). Ben does not satisfy her sexually, so when an old boyfriend (Finn Wittrock) re-enters her life, she too launches an affair.

Dana’s sister Ali (Abby Quinn) is a teenager, still in high school, and eager to get her driver’s license. She’s also sleeping with her boyfriend, Jed (Marquis Rodriguez), and experimenting with hard drugs.

They are a vulgar and profane bunch, and self-control doesn’t seem to feature on any of their resumes.

“Landline’s” loose, character-driven plot is centered around Ali’s discovery of her father’s affair, which happens late one night when she discovers a mysterious folder on the family desktop computer, filled with erotic poetry from Alan that isn’t addressed to his wife. Ali shares her discovery with Dana, which creates a kind of odd hypocritical dynamic as her older sister demonstrates feelings of anger and betrayal towards their father while fully aware that she is being unfaithful to her fiancé.

Director Gillian Robespierre weaves from storyline to storyline, exploring the threads of its individual characters while building toward the family’s inevitable meltdown. Pat is justifiably paranoid about Ali’s…

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