Tales of twentysomethings being forced to finally grow up -- call them delayed coming-of-age stories -- are nothing new. However, Lynn Shelton’s Laggies does offer the novelty of making its main character a woman who’s still mentally stuck in her teen years, rather than an immature dude who just needs to commit to the right lady.
Keira Knightley stars as Megan, a directionless college graduate whose life has been more or less the same for a decade. She loves being doted on by her gregarious dad (Jeff Garlin), she’s still dating her high-school sweetheart Anthony (Mark Webber), and her social life revolves around the same gang of friends she had when she was a teen. However, at the wedding of her BFF Allison (Ellie Kemper), Megan’s world is shaken when Anthony proposes and she discovers that her dad is cheating on her mother.
Emotionally overwhelmed, she drives away from the reception and ends up at a convenience store, where she meets high schooler Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz). The articulate teen convinces Megan to buy booze for her and her friends, and Megan proceeds to hang out with them for the rest of the night, leading to some unexpected bonding between the new buddies.
Convinced she needs a week away from everything before settling down with Anthony, Megan tells her fiancé that she is going to a training seminar, but instead moves in with Annika and her single father Craig (Sam Rockwell). She helps Annika negotiate her romantic dramas, and also begins to feel a spark with the latter’s dad.
Lynn Shelton established her career in the mumblecore scene; she garnered strong notices for her male friendship/sex comedy Humpday, and then scored a critical hit with the love-triangle comedy-drama Your Sister’s Sister. Laggies retains the feel of her largely improvised earlier work, but the script, by first-time scribe Andrea Seigel, gives the film a structure that prevents it from meandering. There might not be any big surprises in the character arcs, but there is a logical progression to what happens. That structure, and the ticking seven-day clock, gives the movie a welcome touch of momentum that’s frequently absent in small stories like this one.
Shelton’s films have always lived or died on the strength of her actors, and Knightley gives a solid, unaffected performance that keeps Laggies centered. Megan’s refusal to grow up is pretty much the only unlikable thing about her, and the actress manages to make that flaw frustrating without ever overplaying it. Megan isn’t childlike; she’s just afraid of the future. Knightley and Moretz have a warm, sisterly chemistry, and Jeff Garlin scores in his few scenes as Megan’s dad -- you can see in him the seeds of his daughter’s immaturity.
However, the movie’s best asset is the ceaselessly charismatic Sam Rockwell. His Craig is a divorce lawyer who’s representing the father of Annika’s emotionally troubled friend, and he oozes smug superiority. However, nobody can give smarmy jerks a soul like Rockwell, who makes sure that Craig’s concern for his daughter is just as prominent as his character’s sarcastic cynicism.
Laggies is a charmingly slight movie, but it’s full of lovely performances. Shelton proves here that she can work with a larger budget and a sturdier story, and if she’s interested, that she can make bigger films without sacrificing her unique voice. As the closing credits roll, we realize that both the main character and the director have grown up.
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- Released: 2014
- Rating: R
- Review: Tales of twentysomethings being forced to finally grow up -- call them delayed coming-of-age stories -- are nothing new. However, Lynn Shelton’s Laggies does offer the novelty of making its main character a woman who’s still mentally stuck in her teen year… (more)