Director Gillian Robespierre takes us back to the halcyon days of the mid-90s in the new movie Landline. Jenny Slate, teaming for the second time with the director after 2014’s Obvious Child, stars as Dana, a woman who along with her younger sister Ali (Abby Quinn) discovers their father Alan (John Turturro) has been having a long-term affair, cheating on their mother Pat (Edie Falco).
This understandably throws their world, largely built around their slightly dysfunctional but still loving family, out of whack. The two set out to figure out what’s been going on while also dealing with their own issues. Dana is engaged to the boring but dependable Ben (Jay Duplass) but seems to be rethinking that future. Ali is a bit wilder than Dana had previously suspected. So there’s growth and discovery going on all over the place.
The one poster for the movie does a number of things quite well. First is the phone cord that descends from the top to form the L in the title, a literal representation of the title and a reminder of a time when the physical range of a conversation had limits. Second is the look Slate’s Dana is shooting across the breakfast table at her father, one that conveys the upset and disappointment she’s feeling without saying a word, letting the audience know there’s something going on there. Third is the way Falco’s Pat is hovering over Ali, establishing their relationship. Finally, the “1995. When people were harder to reach.” brings the metaphor of the title to the story, telling us it’s about interpersonal dynamics family issues. There’s also the nod to Obvious Child, the previous collaborations between Slate and Robespierre.
The first and only trailer introduces us to the family and their dynamic as they’re on a road trip and trying to communicate with each other. We get that Dana is engaged, though she seems less than excited about the coming nuptials. She and her sister don’t really get along but bond when they find evidence their dad is having an affair. Everyone in the family is having their own crisis of sorts, whether it’s pre-wedding nerves, lack of commitment to school, feelings of being ignored or anything else.
It’s charming and low-key and looks sadly funny. The chemistry between all the actors appears effortless and like it all works to tell a simple but emotional story.
Online and Social
As has become pretty standard, you get full-screen video footage from the trailers when you load the official website. The title treatment from the poster involving the cord leading to the L and the copy are all placed in the upper left, above a button prompting you to “Get Tickets” and links to the movie’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter profiles.
In the drop-down menu the first section after another Get Tickets link is “Videos” which has the trailer and a clip from the movie that features a conversation between Pat and Alan as well as news footage of Hillary Clinton that seems pretty specifically included based on today’s political environment.
The “Story” section has a synopsis and the cast and crew lists. There’s a link then to “Stream More Great Films” that takes you to a special section of Amazon’s streaming service devoted to movies from Magnolia Pictures, a nice way to convert people in a different way. Finally there’s a “Press Kit” where you can download stills as well as a full PDF press kit and production notes.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Some light online advertising was done using the key art and there may have been a few social ads run at the time the trailer was released. That’s about it, though.
Media and Publicity
The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. That screening generated mixed, but generally positive word-of-mouth even while the cast and crew talked about reuniting after their previous movie together and how the story came into being. Amazon eventually picked the movie up for distribution.
Slate talked about how the retro vibe of the movie made her nostalgic and why she chose to set the story in the 90s. That was also the topic when Slate and Robespierre were asked about the story at the premiere, where they also talked about how that was meant in part to contrast it to today’s world.
Slate was, of course, the focal point of much of the press. She talked about 90s trends and how she started working with Robespierre years ago as well as her approach to selecting roles as a whole. She also talked about relationships and crushes, how she does and doesn’t want to be grouped with other actresses her age and lots more.
If you’re on board with Jenny Slate, you’ll likely be on board with this campaign. The focus is almost exclusively on her as the star and driving force of the movie’s story, the one we’re asked to sympathize with and take sides on behalf of. Everything about the movie is presented here from her point of view, from her parents’ relationship to the discovery of a side of her sister she was previously unaware of. The campaign is designed to appeal to fans of smaller, character-driven movies, especially those who made 2014’s Obvious Child a word-of-mouth hit as that movie is referenced frequently.
The other nice thing about the marketing is that it doesn’t get obnoxious with the 90s nostalgia. Yes, there are plenty of moments where people use floppy disks and actual landline phones and it takes a moment to realize the “app” Pat refers to in the trailer isn’t a bit of mobile software but a college application. But it keeps all that in the context of the story, not as something wholly on the side that’s positioned as a conceit for the audience to chuckle at. It’s that subtle approach that makes it work because, as the tagline on the poster suggests, the time period is used as a metaphor for human connections, not as a cheap gag.