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Review: Laggies (2014)

Laggies (2014)

Directed by: Lynn Shelton

Premise: A grown woman (Keira Knightly) who is drifting through life goes into a panic when her longtime boyfriend proposes to her. She takes off for a week and befriends a high schooler and her father (Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell).

What Works: Laggies is a movie about prolonged adolescence as a young woman flees from adulthood. Like a lot of movies of this sort, the protagonist is stuck in a rut until a crisis shakes her out of her malaise and forces her to face her life. A lot about the movie is familiar; she runs away from marriage and meets new people but those friendships are threatened by a white lie that can only be recompensed with a self-effacing confession. As familiar as the plot structure may be, Laggies succeeds because of a witty script and strong performances by its central cast. The movie is led by Keira Knightly and the actress continues to impress; she became as star in big budget costume and fantasy movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Atonement but she has often been better in smaller contemporary movies like Last Night and Begin Again. In Laggies, Knightly plays to her strengths and she shows a capacity for vulnerability and humor that goes beyond most of her other roles. The movie also stars Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell as a teenage daughter and her father. Moretz and Rockwell have a credible father-daughter relationship, never more so than when the father tries to be funny but only causes his daughter to cringe. The two actors are cast in roles that are familiar territory and yet each of them add some extra characterization. Moretz typically plays dark characters and here she is a child of divorce but her obsessions are normal teenage fixations and it’s nice to see her play a more balanced teenager for once. Rockwell is often cast in fast talking witty parts and he does some of that here but there is also a subtle sadness to him in Laggies that gives the character more depth. Along with its subtle characterization, Laggies also exceeds its formula with a sense of nuance about growing up. The fiancé and friends of Keira Knightly’s character are not bad people. They are good people who are impatient with their friend and neither she nor they can recognize that they’ve moved past each other. That is a complicated way to imagine the conflict and it makes the climax much more impactful.

What Doesn’t: Laggies is enjoyable so long as the viewer doesn’t think about the premise too much. An adult and high school student befriending each other is a bit of a stretch and the idea that this single father would allow a complete stranger to stay at his home is pretty unusual. Fortunately, the performances and the snappy dialogue push the film through its more incredulous phases. Laggies suffers from a resolution that is simultaneously too neat and yet not neat enough. A lot of the conflicts and subplots are resolved too easily. Keira Knightly’s character goes on the run in part because she sees her father (Jeff Garlin) cheating on her mother. The repercussions of his infidelity are glossed over. The film is also uninspired in the way it moves through its predictable plot beats of break up and reconciliation, often patching up relationships while the wounds are still fresh. Because everything is tied up quick and neat, the filmmakers don’t answer the central question of the movie: what will this woman do with her life? Laggies is part of a subgenre that might be called Millennial Navel Gazing; other titles include Garden State, Adult Beginners, The Skeleton Twins, and Drinking Buddies and these are usually stories of young characters stuck between adolescence and adulthood. How viewers feel about Laggies will almost certainly depend on how they feel about these kinds of movies. Laggies is as good as any of these other titles but the movement is starting to show signs of wear.

DVD extras: Commentary track, featurettes, deleted scenes.

Bottom Line: Laggies is a fine movie. It suffers from being a little too nice and too tidy but the picture has agreeable performances and a sense of humor and nuance that make it very enjoyable.

Episode: #542 (May 17, 2015)