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Girls Trip and Landline: More Modern Angst

Posted on 8/16/2017

      Wading through Trumplandia in a continuous state of semi-shock, I recently chose to escape for a while with two popular movies. I thought the hedonistic “Girls Trip”, with its scenes on Bourbon Street, would be fun; and that “Landline” would be an exploration of The Ethics of Ambiguity. Well, maybe I should’ve stuck with “Atomic Blonde” instead.

 

     “Girls Trip” is such a mixed-up, confused movie, with such a contradictory message, that the humor was lost in the confusion. Was it supposed to be a rendition of Girls Gone Wild or a Sunday church sermon? Somehow, it fails at both. According to Rotten Tomatoes, it’s “the rare R-rated comedy that pushes boundaries to truly comedic effect—and anchors its laughs in compelling characters brought to life by a brilliantly assembled cast." Oh well. Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion. The cast did a fine job; but the plot was stereotypical. The Id/Super-Ego shuttling was dizzying. If you’re swinging on a zip line from one balcony to the next in the midst of Bourbon Street madness, and then gathering on your knees around a bed to pray, well, you’ve lost my interest. It’s Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday on the same day! Four women, the “Flossy Posse” from college days, reunite to attend The Essence Festival in New Orleans. Regina Hall plays Ryan, a self-help author who’s been invited as a key-note speaker. Ryan is married to Stewart (Mike Colter), a retired football star with a roving eye. Queen Latifah play Sasha, who writes an on-line gossip column since her journalism career took a dive. Jada Pinkett Smith has the role of Lisa, who has settled into a nursing career and an unsatisfying family life. Then we have Dina, played by Tiffany Haddish. Reviewers are calling this a break-out role for Ms. Haddish. The conflicts and temptations of contemporary life are displayed openly enough. But Dina needs medication! Totally provocative and violent, both at work and in public, Dina is only a role-model if you advocate for nihilism. Her Impulse-Control Disorder is dangerous to herself and everyone in her vicinity!

 

There is a reverse sexism at play. When a man strays, he’s despicable; but when a woman submits to temptation, it’s understandable.

 

On the French Quarter, a shadowy figure offers them a secret substance: Absinthe. Er, excuse me, but absinthe is legal and it’s readily available, especially at The Old Absinthe House where the barista girl dresses like a pirate and you have your choice from about 50 varieties. In the movie, absinthe is confused with LSD. Hell, get the facts right!

 

After a while, this comedy was simply tiresome. But there were emotional moments with a sincerity to them.

 

“Landline” takes place in the 1980s or 1990s, when we still had to depend on landlines instead of cell phones. There is a nostalgic yearning for a time when technology didn’t intrude so much into human relations. Some of the confusions and ambiguity of modern life are again explored. Alan and Pat, played by John Turturro and Edie Falco, have a comfortable if unstimulating marriage. They’re cozy and settled in but with a haunting existential angst. They have two daughters. Dana (Jenny Slate) is a little too giggly. She is engaged but is lured into an affair with ex-boyfriend Nate (Finn Wittrock). Dana and her fiancé, Ben (Jay Duplass) do try to spice up their passion in several funny scenes. Ali (Abby Quinn) is the younger daughter, who is sexually active whenever and wherever; but horrified when she suspects her father of having an affair. Ali is rebellious and provocative; but soon bonds in righteous outrage when Daddy is strays.

 

Here’s the thing. There is a repeating theme of unfulfillment and frustration, of dissatisfaction with the way it’s supposed to be. The human animal is a restless creature. Clearly, we can forgive ourselves our trespasses but condemn others who do the same.

 

By the way, “Atomic Blonde” is pretty good.

 

 

 

 

 

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