Nobody acts their age in Laggies. That’s what’s so funny. Lynn Shelton’s most mainstream picture to date is a late-blooming coming-of-age story, as well as the latest contemporary comedy to tap into the lighter side of Keira Knightley. For that reason alone, it’s worth seeing.
Knightey plays Megan, a 20-something suburban drifter who’s enabled by her doting father (Jeff Garlin) and judged by her soon-to-be-married best friend (Ellie Kemper). While the world around her seems hellbent on maturing, Megan’s desperate to maintain the blissful ignorance of her responsibility-free teenage years. That opportunity presents itself when Megan encounters 16-year-old Annika (Chloe Moretz) and her friends outside a liquor store. Megan agrees to buy the minors alcohol. Days later, as payback, Megan asks Annika if she can crash at her house for a few days – just to escape the crushing malaise of her reality.
It speaks to Lynn Shelton’s talent that Laggies, at this point of the story, is as terrifying as it is amusing. Megan doesn’t face an extraordinary conflict, like a dying parent or a debilitating disease of her own. She simply looks at the people in her life and realizes that she isn’t on the same page as they are. They’re not even in the same book. Careers, families and the normal societal checklists occupy Megan’s friends. Yet this girl can’t figure out why the way she sees the world feels wrong.
The confusion continues when Megan connects with Annika’s father, Craig, played by Sam Rockwell in one of his many scene-stealing modes. Craig’s a single father trying to raise a teenager who puts forth the image that he knows exactly what’s going on at all times. It’s a façade, and one that Megan comes to understand, even as she leans on Craig in her own difficult times. In Annika, Megan sees the life she once led (and thinks she can drift back to). In Craig, Megan’s offered a soundboard for all of the questions that she has about grown-up life. Sometimes he has answers. More often than not, he’s looking for advice, himself.
You can tell that Lynn Shelton has picked up incredible directing tricks by grabbing episode work on television comedies like New Girl, Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project. The jokes in Laggies are born of character development, and don’t adhere to a stilted, setup-punchline structure. You will either recognize friends and family members in the characters on screen in Laggies (or you’ll realize you are a Megan or a Craig – fix your life! It’s not too late!)
Everyone in Laggies seems to respond to Lynn Shelton’s loose, honest assessment of the way-too-early mid-life crisis. But the movie reminded me, yet again, of how wonderful Keira Knightley can be when freed from the binding corsets of the period genre. Knightley is so down-to-earth, funny, loveable and charming, it’s a wonder she doesn’t have the type of career afforded to Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock in their rom-com primes. Maybe she can get her own sitcom? Maybe Lynn Shelton could follow her.