Laggies is a semi-depressing reminder than even when you have a sweet story, some charming performances and a story that has earned payoff, stories based on women and their everyday plights are going to be written off. Lynn Shelton’s film is a rare look at an individual suffering from arrested development that isn’t a male character. We have bucket loads of films about man-children and their plights, with Seth Rogen and co. making a career out of it (and in all fairness I enjoy Seth Rogen films a lot). The difference is they’re judged on the quality of the film and how the laughs pan out. Laggies‘ only true fault is that it decides to go the route of genre-mashing and allowing its characters to fall for one another at breakneck speed – something that romantic comedies are infamous for. As for the former point, I believe movies are at their best when they manage to bridge genres. Life is never just one thing, and movies are reflections of real life whether they’re heightened realities or subdued and true to life. It’s why films such as The Babadook, The Host, The World’s End and 50/50 work well and succeed in their own genres. Laggies mixes screwball humor with romance with coming-of-age drama, and it all fits together wonderfully.
Megan (Keira Knightley) is in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. Her best friends are getting married and having children, she’s pressured from all sides of her life to pursue her dream even if she’s not sure what her dream is, and then her boyfriend proposes to her, proving to be a catalyst to her minor breakdown. She needs space and she finds it with Annika (Chloe Moretz), a sixteen-year-old girl who she meets when the former and her friends want someone to buy them alcohol. Megan goes to live with Annika, where she meets her father Craig (Sam Rockwell), and it all spirals from there. It’s a subdued little film about making mistakes and living through them, and it is a movie I could watch and see reflected pieces of my own concerns. It’s a movie about what if’s and maybe’s.
Written by Andrea Seigel, the film gets the awkwardness of being a woman in an underplayed manner. Scenes such as a mother trying to relate to her daughter by giving her bras, or ones where Megan is comfortably lounging around in her sweatpants even when she goes out are slight but significant moments that speak to women in ways that films directed by men don’t often catch. It’s the small, intimate details such as how teenage girls speak and hang out and care for one another or how women have just as hard a time adjusting to adult life as men do. Too often in the “bro” comedies where men behave like children I see the female character in the nagging shrew role. They’re put into the unceremonious position of having to be the one who reels their partner in, trying to either put them on a more successful route or change them altogether. Laggies allows Megan growing pains and doesn’t force her into a contrived resolution where she has everything figured out.
The writing also wonderfully serves a scene where we’re shown that breakups are, in fact, painful, and that things aren’t always left hopeful. Sometimes a breakup means a severed friendship, too, and sometimes there’s no real reason beyond no longer loving the person you’re with. It’s messy and it’s sad but it’s honest, and it’s a nice change of pace to see a female character asserting herself in such a way despite the unfortunate circumstances.
It’s worth noting that Keira Knightley gave her best performance here despite being in three films in 2014 that allowed her to shine. Here, however, she gets to play against her comfort zone. Having been a fan of Knightley’s for a while (and even more of a fan once I saw her zero bullshit interview personality that was very much feminist), it’s been nice to see her grow as a performer. She isn’t afraid to be a little goofy here as well as a little open, a little raw and a little bit of a mess. She and Rockwell (who seriously is like a ball of electricity whenever he pops up onscreen) share such a fun and palpable chemistry that I wish the entire movie had been them in scenes together.
The film isn’t without its faults, such as the underwritten supporting characters, and Moretz doesn’t give off the same natural presence as Knightley and Rockwell, but Laggies is a solidly entertaining film with emotional moments that are well executed and performed. I don’t understand why it was overlooked, and it’s a shame that it was. Shelton is one of the few female directors who is able to keep creating films after her debut, and it’s a reminder as to why supporting films created by women are so important.