Film Review – Laggies
I saw Laggies last night and the film opens tomorrow (or today if you are reading it tomorrow), so I don’t have a lot of time to make my review as funny or as insightful as I usually would like. (Not that I am ever as funny or as insightful as I would like.) So, I’m just going to lay my cards out on the table. I think the future of the romantic comedy lies in the hands of directors like Lynn Shelton and Jerusha Hess – people who are making smaller films where the amount of money being spent isn’t so huge that a few risks can’t be taken. I like Lynn Shelton’s films a lot; she’s really good at creating fantasies with improbable situations grounded by wonderful characters and great performances. There comes a moment in all her movies, where I have to accept something I know would NEVER happen, and I do it because she makes me want to believe. I don’t like everything about this particular film, but in the end I bought into it and left feeling satisfied with its conclusion. If that doesn’t seem like high praise, you have no idea how disappointed I’ve been with rom coms lately.
Megan (Keira Knightley) is our protagonist. She’s 28 and floating through life trying to make as few decisions as possible. She lives with her high school boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber) and earns a few bucks as the sign girl for her dad’s (Jeff Garlin) business. Her family is supportive and she has a tight-knit group of friends, but she just can’t find the motivation to do more with her life than sneak off to her parent’s house and watch television all day. When Anthony proposes to her, she realizes she needs some time to get her shit together and figure out what she wants, so she tells him she is going to a week-long retreat/seminar, but really she ends up staying with her friend Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz), a 16 year-old who owes her a few favors. Annika’s dad, divorce lawyer Craig (Sam Rockwell), figures out pretty quickly that something’s up and agrees to let Megan stay with them after hearing her not-entirely-truthful excuse for needing a place to crash for a week. (That may or may not be a very believable decision, but Rockwell sells it.) Things happen, Megan makes some more bad decisions, and lessons get learned. You know where this film is going, but it’s okay because it’s somewhere you want to go.
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way; there are two things that really hurt this movie for me. The set up for the story involves Megan hanging out with her friends who are portrayed as being obnoxious caricatures of normal people. And by normal, I mean people who want to get married and have choreographed wedding dances, give their kids funny names like celebrities do, and stay best-friends forever with their high school group. This is not a life I have chosen – with the exception of the funny name thing. (My daughter’s name is Io, which within the context of this movie is quite funny.) But I can see why people want to live that way. I thought the portrayal of Megan’s friends was a little mean-spirited, and I started out really not liking the movie. It wasn’t until Megan left home that the film became palatable for me. The story is also a little thin. There are a lot of opportunities for Megan to grow, but the film focuses mainly on her romantic choices, and I think that’s a mistake. At the beginning of the film, romance is not the core of her issues, but by the end of the film, it’s a very big part of the solution. Now I personally believe that you can become a better person through personal relationships (I struggle everyday to deserve the awesomeness that is my husband) but I don’t think that’s the answer to the problems set up at the beginning of this film.
What makes this movie better than all of that is the performances and the chemistry between the actors. Whenever Keira Knightley, Jeff Garlin, Sam Rockwell, and Chloë Grace Moretz are on the screen, I totally bought what was going on. Did you know that Jeff Garlin is magic? I did not. HE IS MAGIC. I really like Keira Knightley; she brings a sense of decency to Megan, who in other hands might just have been awful. Sam Rockwell’s character is totally dreamy. (Please also note that my fictional boyfriends also include Mr. Rochester, Mr. Darcy, Fox Mulder and Spock. I might be weird.) Why isn’t Rockwell in more leading man roles? Chloë Grace Moretz is great and I really appreciate that she is given a solid best friend named Misty. There are a lot of complicated female relationships in this movie, which don’t often get shown in films – even in ones about women.
Yeah, I have mixed feelings about this one, but Shelton really knows how to create good chemistry on set, and it shows. For all its flaws, I found this to be a movie worth watching. I think its funny, and it’s tons better than a lot of the crap Hollywood thinks women want to see.