I found myself in a place, a kinda weird in-between place.
So we're on to the woman-child genre (cf. man-child). HBO's Girls is probably the most popular exposé on the phenomenon with respect to young women who fail at the earliest hurdles of adulthood. Then there's Frances Ha (2012), Bridesmaids (2011), and countless TV-movies to which Lynn Shelton adds, if not her voice, her direction with Laggies (2014). This is Shelton's first time directing a film outside of her written improvisational process to mixed effect. While its subject matter is a very near relative of her works thus far, it lacks her grounded emotional depth and instead provides a conventional (or at least familiar) story without the surprises or resonance one would hope for from someone with Shelton's indie sensibilities. That said, without Shelton, this movie is airing on Lifetime.
The gang is growing up. There's a wedding, a new restaurant, a baby on the way, and then Megan (Keira Knightley) and Anthony (Mark Webber), high school's award-winning couple just about ready to tie their own knot. Yet, Megan is a little lost, working for her dad as a sign holder--you know, the people who stand in the street twirling an arrow to attract business. Further complicating matters, Megan spies her dad getting an adulterous handy in the garden. Anthony proposes and Megan accepts his offer to elope, which they'll do right after she suffers through this week long professional development seminar. But the typically flighty Megan gets sidetracked, helping Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) get out of a little school trouble. Seeing an opportunity to get her head straight, Megan crashes at Annika's for the week without telling Anthony or anybody else. Grudgingly, Annika's father Craig (Sam Rockwell) accepts the situation and lets Megan stick around.
The bulk of the film is exactly what you expect and breaks no new ground. The ending, you already know from the casting alone. The high school drama of some innocuous boy trouble, silly friends, and dealing with a bumpy home life. The fresher elements are the least dealt with. Megan's unspoken antipathy to the scripted groupthink of her friends traveling the pre-approved road to middle age is effectively the crux of her character and the motivation for the film's climax and yet receives scant attention. The question is, what do you do when your friends are a bunch of basics? Likewise, Annika's mother (Gretchen Mol) is probably the single largest force in explaining the girl's psychology, but gets a single scene and never really wrestles with its nature, resonance, or ethics. But the issues are aired and Shelton always gives the audience time to think things through a little--though this movie provides the least amount of reflection of her films.
The weaknesses in the film mostly lie at the feet of the script by Andrea Seigel and the failure of Shelton or the producers to massage out the clichés or at least earn them. The performances are always stable and occasionally quite good. Everything gets better with more Sam Rockwell. Keira Knightly is also a favorite and is, like her character, in an in-between place going from ingenue with romance problems to middle age with romance problems. Hopefully she'll be able to push out of her place as a romantic interest in a way that Julie Christie, with whom she shares a great deal, didn't. Her talent, like Christies, is underutilized by Hollywood's lack of imagination in this respect. Moretz, on the other hand, is only stable. Being, as she is, only 18 and playing a character of the same age does put one into the uncomfortable position of wondering "Is her performance weak because she lacks talent or because that is simply what young people are like?" Teenagers are awkward and false in their attempts to seem mature; their line readings sound as though they either don't understand or don't believe them. So maybe she was good.
Ultimately, this is a non-threatening film. It will do you no harm. Unlike Your Sister's Sister (2011), however, it does not radiate the same degree of warmth and pain.
Commentary with director Lynn Shelton, "Lagging On with Lynn Shelton" (a run-of-the-mill making-of featurette), "Shooting Seattle: The Look of Laggies", deleted scenes, and trailers.
"Laggies" is on sale February 10, 2015 and is rated R. Comedy. Directed by Lynn Shelton. Written by Andrea Seigel. Starring Chloe Moretz, Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell.