Laggies Review: The Joys of Prolonged Adolescence

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Though it succumbs to a few too many clichés, Lynn Shelton’s tale of arrested development still makes for a sweetly earnest film.

The world of indie movies has carved out a sizable niche for stories of women who have yet to figure it all out. Offering a variation on the more mainstream man-child comedies from the school of Judd Apatow, these films feature ladies who’ve suffered a failure to launch, and who usually need a jolt of excitement to move them in the right direction.

In truth, there’s not much that distinguishes Laggies from films like Young Adult, Lola Versus, and Obvious Child, except for the fact that it paints its subject with a surprisingly warm glow. Lynn Shelton is a phenomenally subdued director, and though this film lacks the fascinating voyeurism of her other projects like Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister, she’s still able to infuse an alluring sense of empathy throughout that makes for a wholly enjoyable viewing experience.

The story follows Megan (Kiera Knightly), a woman going through a quarter-life crisis after earning a graduate degree in something that doesn’t personally fulfill her. Really, though, her problem is that she’s still running with the same circle of friends she had since she was a teenager, even staying in a relationship with her high school sweetheart (Mark Webber). It’s clear that this group of people is keeping her stuck in a rut, even if they’ve all started to move forward.

Things become too real too fast for Megan after her boyfriend proposes to her in the middle of her friend’s wedding reception. She runs off, and ends up running into a young girl named Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) who asks if she’ll buy her and her friends some beer. After forming a drunken bond with Annika, Megan decides to use her as a way to retreat from her life for a while. Under the guise of going to a personal improvement seminar, she stays at Annika’s house for a week; getting to know her lawyer dad Craig (Sam Rockwell) and hanging out with her friends (including a scene-stealing Kaitlyn Dever) in the process.

The majority of the movie deals with Megan’s journey of self-discovery as she views the world through Annika’s eyes. Spending time with someone at a different stage in life allows her to make realizations about what she’s missing from her own. The film moves along at a brisk pace, throwing us several important character moments one after the other. Shelton is at her best when orchestrating more intimate two-person scenes. Working from a script by YA novelist Andrea Seigel, the director is able to make a simple premise—like Megan explaining a joke to her yuppie friends, or Craig interrogating her for sleeping over his house—come alive with a playful charisma.

Unfortunately, the film takes its bubbly demeanor bit too far, giving way to rom-com clichés like an airport confessional and an ending sequence at the prom. Though an underlying sense of snark seems to have been retained, it’s a bit disheartening to see the story falter in its tightrope walk between buoyancy and cheesiness. Everyone comes out okay in the end, but it’s hard, at times, not to feel like the narrative took the easy route home.

Laggies is still something of a triumph, however, because of the incredibly endearing performances from its cast. Knightly is an absolute delight as Megan, making her into an optimistic figure despite her listless tendencies. Moretz is equally at home playing a confident, but troubled teenage girl, and Rockwell exhibits gruff charm as the beleaguered dad. Though his character isn’t exactly necessary for Megan’s personal development—and his absence would perhaps have made for a more empowering ending—his chemistry with Knightly is palpable, and the scenes they share together are some of the film’s best.

Laggies doesn’t take the idea of a female in personal peril to new heights, but I don’t think that’s what it set out to do. There’s nothing really groundbreaking here, but there is a fun, engaging story about characters who are very easy to like. Sometimes, that’s all you really need when you go to the movies. Grade: B+

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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