We’re just starting to get to that point in the year when studios stop putting out mindless explosion fests and trickle in a few movies they think might garner critical acclaim. Films like Fury, Birdman, and Nightcrawler are all supposed to be in the wheelhouse of critics like myself. And while I enjoy a well-crafted cinematic experience, the movies that really keep me enamored with the industry are smaller and personal ones. Case in point, the new film from director Lynn Shelton, Laggies.
The film follows Megan (Keira Knightley) who is stuck in a rut and realizing that the circle of high school friends she’s remained a part of may not be the crowd for who she wants to be another ten years down the line. Her entire life is being determined by slow, undesired, and unmotivated momentum; whether it’s the looming marriage to her high school sweetheart, Anthony (Mark Webber), or the lack of career ambition. After a shameful discovery about her father (Jeff Garlin) exacerbates the increasingly claustrophobic idea of marriage, Megan finds a way to excuse herself from her own world for a week. She ends up crashing on the floor of Annika, a high school student (Chloë Grace Moretz) she knows only after being the random adult who bought her alcohol at a grocery store (the classic rite of passage for both underage minor and grown-up looking to pay things forward from their own experience).
The movie is confined to this week of self-discovery and the best elements of the movie are the themes of aimlessness, doubt, and realizing the value, or lack thereof, when it comes to holding onto friendships that grew apart long ago. Knightley has always done a good job of exuding melancholic reflection and she makes the character feel genuine. This is more impressive considering some of the cliché and unnecessary elements the screenplay brings to the table.
My only real complaints with the movie are an unnecessary romance between Megan and Annika’s father (Sam Rockwell) and how far Megan lets things go with Anthony considering what’s she’s been learning about herself. There seemed to be a few ways to avoid these pitfalls which were not taken, and perhaps most disappointing of all, these elements seemed to be more about pleasing a test audience than growing organically from the rest of the movie.
However, I’m willing to forgive those trite and sadly expected plot developments because the moments between Megan, Annika, and her friends are unexpectedly charming and lovely. Knightley and Moretz share a wonderful mother/sister-like chemistry and the depiction of high school students is well handled by Shelton and the cast. These are kids most of us should be able to recognize as ourselves, or our friends, at that age. Additionally, Shelton finds a way to make this unlikely friendship not feel as creepy as it probably should. On paper, this idea is a bit odd but it all makes sense on-screen.
So the $51 dollar question, is Laggies a film you should watch? Well, I think that if you are the type of person who likes more intimate character-driven films, especially the kind where the characters are trying to navigate the crossroads they find themselves at, then this is going to resonate with you. It’s definitely one of the few films of 2014 that I’ll be picking up on the home market eventually, as I can see myself re-watching it from time to time. It’s not going to win any major awards but I like it. And really, at the end of the day, there are films you “should” see and films that you want to see. This is the latter, and that’s perfectly fine with me.
Laggies is rated R for language, some sexual material and teen partying.