Note: this review is featured on the Phoenix Film Festival’s website.
Laggies is the latest film from director Lynn Shelton, one of the most unique voices in the business today. I was a huge fan of her work Your Sister’s Sister; I thought it was a nuanced approach to characters and advanced mumblecore as a genre of storytelling to a stronger, more narratively grounded level. Here, she uses a more renowned cast alongside a more familiar plot and delivery, but that does not take away from the characters on display or the slight affecting moments in the script. Her writer, Andrea Siegel, crafts a story about a quarter-life crisis (which I suppose is now a thing) through the lens of a woman that clearly has not grown up and decided what to be when she’s an adult. It feels similar in thematic tone to Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha (a stronger, more individualized vision), even if it falls into familiar romantic tropes through unconventional means. The performances all-around are terrific, particularly from Knightley and Rockwell, and they elevate the material to enjoyable heights.
Megan (Keira Knightley) is an admirably aimless woman who got a degree from a university a few years ago but doesn’t know what to do with herself. She works at her father’s (Jeff Garlin) law firm, where she spins a sign outside and then heads home to her long-time boyfriend, Anthony (Mark Webber). They’ve lived a happy life since being deemed high school sweethearts, and her friend’s (Ellie Kemper) recent marriage reminds Anthony that he needs to take a step forward in their relationship. He effectively proposes and, taken aback, Megan tells him she needs a little time and that she’s heading to a seminar to fix up her life. In reality, though, she moves in with Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz), a high schooler that Megan bought alcohol for after her friend’s wedding. They bonded, Annika likes to take advantage of her, and things develop a bit more strongly. Their friendship grows, and it becomes even more complicated once Megan’s divorce lawyer of a father, Craig (Sam Rockwell), comes into the picture. Her mother (Gretchen Mol) models now and is out of the picture, so her family life is a bit dysfunctional.
Shelton’s films always pride themselves on their eccentric characters and their means of establishing their own in a world full of interesting individuals. It’s fitting, then, that she (along with Siegel) crafts a compelling narrative surrounding Megan and her attempt to solve her life. If that means finding out what truly makes her happy in both her life goals and romance, then so be it. Knightley is terrific in the lead, flaunting her American accent with relative ease and showing her versatility and resilience in the wake of a role that could have made her grating and exaggerated. She feels sincere and makes the situations arising out of her character’s mistakes feel authentic; it’s a real person making these fragile choices, not a scripted individual. Rockwell is always a pleasant presence on film, and he’s dynamic and lively here. There’s something about the succinct manner in his delivery that feels earnest. Moretz is strong when the role requires it, but more often than not she is a catalyst for the film’s supporting actions. There’s even an atypical airport scene near the film’s conclusion that allows two characters to look introspectively on one another that challenges the notion of everything being explained perfectly for a romance in the tumultuous environment of air commerce. Laggies uses these elements to increasingly effective measures, making for an affecting, pleasant comedy about finding oneself in a world that feels, at once, both daunting and promising.
Grade: ★★★½ (out of 5)