Film review: Laggies

In Laggies, the director Lyn Shelton brings her light, heartfelt touch to a version of the back-to-school comedy.
Chloe Grace Moretz, left, and Keira Knightley in a scene from the film. AP Photo / Sundance Institute
Chloe Grace Moretz, left, and Keira Knightley in a scene from the film. AP Photo / Sundance Institute

Director: Lynn Shelton

Cast: Keira Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell

Four stars

The director Lynn Shelton is a curious hybrid of high-concept and low production value.

She has made a speciality out of deconstructing sitcom-y setups but instead of heightening the broad potential of such stories, she plays them naturally, usually with improvised dialogue and an un-stylised, micro-budget intimacy.

In Laggies, she brings her light, heartfelt touch to a version of the back-to-school comedy, rendered not with Rodney Dangerfield antics but the soul-searching of a directionless 28-year-old Seattleite (Keira Knightley).

Megan has spent her post-high school life procrastinating and earning a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy that she hasn’t put to use as she is unable to relate to her clients.

She lives with her cloyingly sweet high school boyfriend (Mark Webber) and does odd jobs for her father (Jeff Garlin). When her careerist, bridezilla friend (Ellie Kemper) gets married and her own boyfriend proposes, Megan’s arrested development turns into a crisis.

She meets 16-year-old Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) and they hit it off partly because their maturity level is about equal. Annika, too, is a little lost, her mother having abandoned her.

Man-child movies have long been commonplace, so the female focus of Laggies, written by Andrea Seigel, is a welcome twist. It is really a film about people looking for genuine connection outside of traditional roles. Just as the film doesn’t want to be only an implausible romp, its characters want the confidence to break free of convention.

Shelton’s ability to coax unadorned performances from actors is her most obvious skill and it results here with a fine performance from Knightley as a recognisable kind of selfishly meandering mess. But it’s Moretz and Sam Rockwell (as Annika’s father) who give Laggies its charm. Rockwell in particular, looking very much the sure-handed veteran, gives the movie a happy jolt.

Laggies is never more fun than when he calls Megan into his office, shiftily cross-examining her. In most such movies, the father would be blissfully unaware of the age difference between the actors. Here, he punctures that fiction in a heartbeat, which takes the movie in a whole other direction.

artslife@thenational.ae

Published: December 31, 2014 04:00 AM

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