The film landscape is filled with movies about people struggling with the idea of growing up, acting responsible and accepting that they’re an adult, and roughly all of these films feature a man-child as their protagonist. What Lynn Shelton’s new film Laggies presupposes is… what if one of them was a woman?
Megan (Keira Knightley) has been watching from the sidelines as friends get married and start careers and families, but while she’s a bit young for a mid-life crisis that doesn’t stop her from losing her emotional footing when her boyfriend proposes out of the blue. The issue is compounded further when she sees her dad getting a handy from a woman who is most definitely not Megan’s mother, and in shock and disbelief Megan immediately hops in the car and heads out into the night. She meets a teenager named Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) out front of a Grocery Outlet with her friends on the lookout for a “cool” adult willing to buy them some booze, and she agrees to help in exchange for a place to hide out for a few days.
Megan may look too young for a life crisis, but one glance is all Annika’s father (Sam Rockwell) needs to know that she’s also too old to be his daughter’s classmate. She explains her situation – well, a heavily redacted version of her situation that includes no mention of a boyfriend or a proposal – and Craig decides to let her stay through the weekend. She tries at first to treat her new situation as a simple fork in the lazy river that is her life, but she quickly discovers that sometimes you have to get out of the inner tube and stand on your own two feet. Or, you know, insert your own metaphor here.
Laggies is a happy return to the harsh truths and sharp comedy of Shelton’s 2011 film, Your Sister’s Sister, and more than makes up for the misfire of last year’s Touchy Feely. It’s smart, beautifully acted by its leads and offers plenty of laughs, and while it has a few rough patches – most notably an easy and obvious ending – they don’t prevent the film from being a sweet and smile-inducing joy.
One key to the film’s success – in addition to Andrea Seigel’s fast and funny script – is found in Knightley and Rockwell’s performances. Knightley is too frequently relegated to traditional romantic dramas and roles that seem most interested in framing her solely as a waif-ish beauty, but she shines brightest when given the opportunity to just be an everyday young woman with an underbite. She sells the lost twenty-something with ease, and you can’t help but want to simultaneously hug her and kick her ass into gear. Rockwell meanwhile, as he has done so many times before, steals every single moment he’s onscreen. His playful charm feels so effortless, and that casual nature makes his character’s moments of personal pain that much more effective.
Megan’s journey from someone who coasts through life on the wings of others to someone who finally learns to appreciate being their own pilot is filled with moments both painful and comical, but there are some bumps for viewers along the way. Most of the supporting players and characters are fine including Jeff Garlin’s turn as Megan’s dad and Gretchen Mol as Annika’s emotionally distant mom, and while Moretz still can’t quite nail acting like a normal teen she’s good enough here to avoid distraction.
Less successful are Mark Webber and Ellie Kemper as Megan’s boyfriend and best friend, respectively. Both of them are proven talents, but they’re allowed to play their roles with such exaggerated sincerity here that they ring false from beginning to end. And speaking of the ending, Seigel’s script stumbles after teaching Megan that life is a messy, unpredictable adventure only to turn around and tie things up neatly in the most obvious way.
Even with its third act misstep Laggies is able to land more than enough jokes and heartfelt moments to make it an enjoyable and memorable watch. It’s also a happy reminder of just how damn good both Shelton and Knightley can be when working with the right material… and how Rockwell is great regardless of it.
The Upside: Funny and honest; Sam Rockwell and Keira Knightley are impossible to resist
The Downside: Some supporting characters too broad; easy ending
On the Side: Rebecca Hall reportedly turned down the lead role here to star in Transcendence instead. Ha.