“Landline” may be set in the ’90s, but director Gillian Robespierre couldn’t help contrasting the film’s themes of gender, infidelity, and dishonesty to current events.
“We’ve been told that, if you look at our election, women cannot lie,” Robespierre said at the film’s premiere on Tuesday at New York City’s Metrograph. “So many things we’re not allowed to do and we don’t get to win elections because of our gender.”
Co-written by Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm, “Landline” follows two sisters, Dana (Jenny Slate) and Ali (Abby Quinn), who suspect their father (John Turturro) of cheating on their mother (Edie Falco). The film deals with both male and female infidelity, a theme that Slate, who worked with Robespierre and Holm on 2014’s “Obvious Child,” also juxtaposed with the recent election.
“I feel that in society, generally when a man cheats, we’re a bit more forgiving because we tend to think men need to satisfy their needs. Whereas if women cheat, they are liars, insidious or insecure,” Slate said. “We have a president now who won an election because he bragged about cheating, lying, and assaulting people, and a woman who lost because she also was untruthful. One was elevated and one was denigrated.”
Robespierre chalks up this common societal opinion to how cheating men are portrayed on-screen in comparison to women.
“Most movies, there’s a midlife crisis with a male lead and he cheats on his wife. That’s almost in half of the movies. You still root for him,” she said.
Quinn touted Robespierre for subverting that narrative by depicting women who are multi-dimensional.
“Women for a very long time had to be one way. I think all of Gillian’s movies, that’s not the way women are portrayed,” Quinn said. “She’s not afraid to make unlikable characters. For a long time, society has been paranoid with doing that.”
As for how to depict life more accurately, Robespierre advises “showing that people lie, cheat and steal doesn’t have to vilify them” and is “trying to write characters without judging them.”
“Landline” hits theaters July 21.