Lynn Shelton's most accessible and crowd-pleasing film comes at the expense of believability and few moments that contain her unique style.
Laggies (TIFF Review)
Coming off a disappointing previous film (Touchy Feely), director Lynn Shelton returns with Laggies to what she does best —examining likable but flawed characters at a crossroads in their life. Working from a script she didn’t write (a first for the director) and her largest budget to date, Shelton ditches her typical improvisational approach for a more conventional structure. But even with a more refined technique, Laggies still obtains excellent chemistry between its cast, giving off the authentic vibe that we’re used to seeing in Shelton’s work.
It’s been over 10 years since Megan (Keira Knightley) graduated from high school, and while her friends are getting married, having babies, and starting up their own restaurant, Megan twirls signs on the street for her father (Jeff Garlin). It slowly dawns on her that she’s lagging behind her peers and just floating through life. She needs some time away from her social group and her boyfriend Anthony (played by Mark Webber, who always gets typecast for these kind of roles) to clear her mind and to find herself.
This is when the film begins to test your ability to overlook and roll with the nonsensical developments. After buying beer for a group of underage high schoolers, Megan forms a close friendship with one of them named Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz). Megan decides to cash in her I-O-U from Annika for the beer and devises a plan to get away from her routine for a while. So she tells everyone she’s going on a weeklong self-development seminar, but instead stays with Annika at her father’s (Sam Rockwell) house. Like the audience, her father questions Megan’s motives but it doesn’t take much arm twisting before he allows her to stay. Everything goes according to plan until Megan develops feelings for Annika’s father, which threatens to ruin her relationships with Annika and Anthony.
Shelton continues to show her extraordinary ability to get the best performances out of her cast. Knightley puts on the best performance of her career by dominating her own scenes and enhancing everyone else’s around her. Moretz is very much in her comfort zone playing a snippy teenager and pairs well with Knightley. Rockwell has the luxury of getting the best material to work with, playing both the cool dad and the love interest with the effortless charm he’s known for.
There are some great life messages in Laggies, namely about gaining perspective on life while helping others avoid making those same mistakes. Another theme throughout is on the nature of relationships, their fragility and the constant attention needed to make them last. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of predictable moments in Laggies. It’s far too easy to guess how the story’s plot points will turn out before they happen. A predictability that is of course dissatisfying. Filled with solid performances from everyone involved, and an enjoyable original soundtrack by Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Laggies is Lynn Shelton’s most accessible and crowd-pleasing film to date. Unfortunately it comes at the expense of believability and few moments that contain her unique style, making the film feel overly familiar and generic.