Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn in Landline (Amazon Studios)

Remember New York in the 1990s? Before everyone zoned out on their phones? Before your favorite restaurant became overrun with tourists after somebody Instagrammed his French fries? The family dramedy Landline takes places in faraway pre-Wired Age Manhattan, and along with the era’s squared-off fashions, it sports some ’90s indie film trappings, too: a narrow scope and a tendency to handle its self-absorbed characters’ challenges with a sitcomy, laughing-through-tears earnestness.

Dana (the everywhere-these-days Jenny Slate) is about to get married to loyal but unexciting Ben (Jay Duplass, playing yet another nebbish), only she’s feeling restless and trapped. So she dabbles in a fling with her bad-boy college ex, Nate (Finn Wittrock). Meanwhile, little sister Ali (newcomer Abby Quinn) suspects ad exec and frustrated playwright dad (John Turturro) is cheating on mom. Of course, the rebellious teenager is conducting shenanigans of her own in rave clubs and the bad, bad East Village.

Landline’s focus on family stress and relationships recalls a grrl power The Brothers McMullen transplanted to the Upper West Side, with an attempt to spice things up with some Kids-style drug taking and dirty language. Clandestine affairs are played for maximum heartache and drama, but a viewer’s response to the transgressions might be, “Sure, you’re having an affair, darling. Who wouldn’t?” Dana and her fiancé’s relationship feels like an awkward combination of childish games and middle-aged sexual boredom—the movie opens with a stilted coupling in the woods foiled by gnats—so no wonder Dana is drawn to the twinkle in naughty Nate’s eye.

Adultery is no solution to a troubled marriage, but any man would be excused for looking for solace far, far away from mom. As written, she’s a stone-cold, sharp tongued, ball-breaking grouch. Edie Falco excels at locating and sharing the goodness at the heart of gruff characters, but this time she comes up empty-handed until the film rather unconvincingly lets her character redeem herself by the too-sweet conclusion. Turturro, on the other hand, anchors every scene he’s in. He refrains from overacting and delivers an understated, well-calibrated performance as a kind man disappointed with his life and exhausted by the difficult, endlessly emoting women around him. It feels ironic that in this female-centric movie, Turturro’s part may be the most nuanced and best formed.

With her melting brown eyes and expressive features, Slate is visually striking and can pull off vulnerability nicely, although the script has her carrying on more like a ditzy teenager than a woman in her early thirties, and Quinn tosses off harsh swear words with a Daria-esque deadpan grumpiness. Problem is, the dialogue the actresses have to work with isn’t funny enough when it aims to be or hard-hitting enough to pierce the heart. Landline wants you to care about and even love its conflicted characters. They may be loveable, but they’re just not that interesting.

Directed by Gillian Robespierre
Written by Elizabeth Holm and Robespierre
Released by Amazon Studios/Magnolia Pictures
USA. 96 min. Not rated
With Jenny Slate, Edie Falco, Abby Quinn, Jay Duplass, Finn Wittrock and John Turturro