LAGGIES Review

Laggies, in short, is about a distraught twenty-something who's extremely close to nearing thirty and becoming more anxious every day about trying to figure out who she is after putting it off for so long. It's a movie about identity crisis, of existential questions we've no doubt seen countless times before, but that doesn't make it any less endearing. In fact, if there is any one thing that makes Laggies stand out from the number of typically depressing Sundance films about rumination it is just how adorable the movie tends to be and how delightfully the characters allow their difficult circumstances to influence their attitudes in alternative ways. It is easy to forgive the conventions at play here, specifically those that crowd the foreseen outcomes of each characters situations in Andrea Siegel's debut screenplay, but when handled by a director such as Lynn Shelton (Your Sister's Sister) who can be so precise in zeroing in on the quirks that make characters individuals more than stereotypes we naturally feel more sympathy for their plights. I don't pretend to know what it's like to be lost or not knowing what to do with my life as I've always known what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be (my problem has been achieving the level of those goals I aspire to, not the lack of drive), but through the eyes of Keira Knightley's Megan we get a first class seat in experiencing what it's like to having the world at ones fingertips and taking it all for granted in desperately trying to piece it all together. One could easily look at Megan as something of a spoiled brat, a hipster if you were prone to do so though I never looked at her as this middle class kid who was entitled because of her pedigreed education, but instead I ended up seeing her as kind of a basket case who was comfortable in her skin at a very specific point in her life and who time has forced out of that skin and into the that of an adults. She finds it hard to embrace this facade and in turn reverts to where she might be accepted for being who she's comfortable being. I guess that might mean she isn't just trying to find herself, but others who will help her become both who she's supposed to be and who she wants to be simultaneously.

Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Megan (Keira Knightley) form an unlikely friendship...
The problem Megan faces with her high school friends is that they're all getting married or having kids and all kinds of other adult dealings that no longer allow them to laugh at immature things. The line is drawn a little harshly with her friends that include the ringleader (the always wonderful Ellie Kemper) who is in the midst of getting married herself while allowing Megan's long-time boyfriend and high school sweetheart, Anthony (Mark Webber), to propose at their reception. In the midst of Anthony doing so Megan freaks out at the thought and pulls him back up from his kneeling position. This is all to say that Megan isn't necessarily ready to move on to the next, presumed stage of life when it likely just feels a little too pre-determined. Megan is the type of person who plays with the nipples on a Buddha statue or takes games too far without considering her company. The problem is, her company is supposed to include her best friends in the world, but none of them seem to respond on the same level as Megan anymore. They are trying too hard to be adults while Megan is trying too hard to rebel. I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of Knightley's (though I have no specific reason as to why) and in the first couple of scenes here where she is explicitly adolescent for the sake of trying to maintain her youthful mentality I thought I might be in for a grating experience. It is to the actresses credit though that with Megan's arc being the focus of the entire film that Knightley is able to make this journey without it ever feeling as forced as her early attempts at humor. It is when she is eased back into her comfort zone after meeting a young group of teenagers led by Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) that she also eases back into a stress free zone where she can be who she wants to be without catching any slack for it, that is, until she meets Annika's lawyer dad, Craig (Sam Rockwell), and begins to mature as is expected, but without feeling obliged to do so.      

It was with something of a round of pleasantries that I felt a bit awkward and embarrassed for Knightley on the first go round, but by the time we would have made it back to her to have a more in-depth conversation she had acclimated herself well to both the character and the screenplay. While her American accent is still questionable she does a fine job of walking that thin line between the overly hippie/free spirit schtick and the one where she really is trying to not let herself and everyone around her down. Megan clearly takes herself serious as a person without being serious herself and to that point is where we find the spirit of Knightley's performance. The audience never believes Megan is a joke of a person or that her existence in invalid because she can't decide to do with her many opportunities, but rather we hold out hope for her because Knightley allows us to see the potential there. Knightley is also supported by a rather stellar cast of characters, Her father, played by Jeff Garlin and who factors largely into her appreciation for perspective later on in the film, captures in one instance early on the type of relationship he and his daughter have. Moretz is fine here as she more or less goes through the motions of being the wise beyond her years high schooler while one of her friends is played by Kaitlyn Dever who lands a fair amount of laughs and is building quite the solid reputation with this, Men, Women & Children (her performance specifically, not the film as a whole) and Short Term 12. Then we have Sam Rockwell who tends to steal anything he appears in and does so here as expected. Rockwell's poor Craig has been bitch slapped by love so many times it's hard to understand how he could even come back to understanding the raw emotion that connects him to another person, but the ability to revert to an unspoken understanding through his comedy again makes Rockwell and his character both charming and reliable.

...as do Megan and Annika's dad, Craig (Sam Rockwell) in Laggies.
Speaking of reliability, despite all her faults this is what Megan proves to be to those she actually comes to care about. Megan's distancing of herself from her old friends and Anthony is seen through her inability to commit to anything they ask of her, even to the extent of serving as Godmother to one of their children, while Annika can come to trust in her for things as small as boyfriend advice and as big as reuniting with her estranged biological mother. Much of Laggies would easily be considered something just "good enough," a passable effort from a director who has made a name directing quirky television comedies and little indie movies about people finding themselves and that there isn't much in the way of revelation to be had here, but the craft of everyone involved is especially on the nose and I appreciated that enough to become more invested in the film than I would have were it in lesser hands. This especially comes through in one of the final scenes as it takes place in an airport. You can probably name a handful of romantic comedies where the climax involves someone running after the one they're about to let get away through in airport in hopes they catch them in time before their flight leaves. It makes sense, there is an inherent sense of tension in the environment that makes the audience question if the hero will actually make it, but in Laggies this is not the purpose this location serves. Seigel seems to be purposefully upending this cliché where everything comes together in a terminal and instead brings the moment when Megan gains the courage to finally allow everything to fall apart, truly risking it all. It is admirable and I dug it. And so, while the synopsis of being about a girl in a quarter-life crisis trying to figure out who she is may make the film sound rather boring and familiar there is plenty of character development and fine performances to keep the film afloat and worth your hour and a half, especially at home on the couch.


Blu-Ray Extras:
  • Digital HD copy. 
  • Six deleted scenes. 
  •  Lionsgate trailers. 
  • “Lagging On With Lynn Shelton”- A featurette that contains cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, discussions about the project and script, and more.
  •  “Shooting Seattle: The Look Of Laggies”- A 6 minute featurette about filming in Seattle. 
  •  A solo commentary by Lynn Shelton.