PLOT: An aimless young woman, debating whether or not she should marry her longtime sweetheart, escapes from her life for a week and lives with a teenaged acquaintance and her lawyer father.
REVIEW: LAGGIES is lucky it has such a good cast, because without the likes of Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell and Chloe Grace Moretz buoying it, it would find itself sinking under the weight of its silly cliches and predictable narrative. Basically a feature-length sitcom with pretensions of tugging your heartstrings and teaching a very special lesson or two, director Lynn Shelton's film feels both inconsequential and manipulative. And if it weren't for those charming thespians giving their all, it would be utterly disposable.
Megan (Knightley) is a late-20s loser, living with her high school boyfriend (Mark Webber) and passing time working for her father (Jeff Garlin) while brushing off any real opportunities at an actual career. A longtime friend (Ellie Kemper) is about to get married, which further accentuates Megan's aimlessness, but there's still no real motivating her to do anything beyond hang out at her folks' house. After her boyfriend, a sweet but lame guy, attempts proposing to her, Maggie panics and drives off into the night, ultimately ending up at a liquor store where some teens ask her to buy them beer. Before she knows it, she's hanging out with them and getting drunk, bonding with Annika (Moretz) in the process.
So far, that's fine enough, but the movie's next idea is straight-up "huh?" Megan makes up a story to Annika about needing a place to stay and ends up sleeping over at her house for a week; she tells her now-fiance and friends that she's going to a career-building seminar. Annika doesn't think anything is weird about the situation, but her father Craig (Rockwell), a single dad, initially does. Craig quickly sees through Megan and Annika's lie that the former is a high school student, but believes the one that her house is being renovated and she just needs a place to crash for a while. Craig is presented as a wily individual (he's a lawyer), and the fact that he buys this BS is an early indicator that Andrea Seigal's script is going to be crashing through the walls of plausibility in order to keep its flimsy scenario going. (And this convenient set-up isn't even the most contrived piece of plotting the screenplay has to offer.)
Naturally, Megan and Craig strike up a romance, making things even stranger and putting Annika in the position of seeing Megan as both bestie and surrogate mother. Hard to feel bad for her - her vapid model mom ran off years ago and barely ever reaches out - but it's definitely hard to feel any kind of sympathy for Megan. It's not that the character is supposed to be lovable - the movie clearly presents her as immature and unfocused - but we're asked to relate to her "quarter-life crisis" and give her a pass for her bad decision-making. If you don't think so, wait until the end of the film, which basically pats her on the back and says it's all going to be okay. Megan isn't only selfish, she's destructive, and she helps ruin - at least temporarily - several lives of the people around her. But because she acknowledges her arrested development and seems rather sad about all of it, LAGGIES still wants us to root for her situation to work out and be satisfied with the completely predictable ending.
Well, I couldn't do that, and when you're actively rooting against a character, that's a tough hill for a movie to climb. It's a genius move on Shelton's part that Megan should be personified by Keira Knightley, unglamorous but still beautiful, working with a flawless American accent and emoting plenty of humility and regret. Knightley is so good in the role that you really do want to give Megan the benefit of the doubt. (You don't, but it's a good effort.)
Rockwell is playing a part seemingly tailor-made for him; the wise but goofy dad who likes to drink and flirt but can still be considered responsible. Moretz is also very good, playing well both the carefree and solemn sides of her teenager. Kaitlyn Dever is a stand-out as Annika's rebellious friend, while Webber brings some real pathos as Megan's put-upon boyfriend.
Try as they might, though, these performers can't help boost LAGGIES, which appears to have been completely manufactured from the parts of other Sundance-approved dramadies about twenty-somethings figuring themselves out. This kind of movie can be pulled off without seeming so artificial, but this one, like its heroine, needs to grow up.
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