Sundance 2014: ‘Laggies’ a feat of storytelling that gives women room to be indecisive and flawed

Chloë Grace Moretz and Keira Knightley star in director Lynn Shelton's "Laggies"
Chloë Grace Moretz and Keira Knightley star in director Lynn Shelton’s “Laggies”

Directed by Lynn Shelton
Written by Andrea Seigel
USA, 2014

Keira Knightley stars in the new movie by director Lynn Shelton (Humpday, Your Sister’s Sister) that seeks to reason why a young woman hasn’t grown up yet. It’s a film about hesitancy and not knowing exactly what you need to achieve happiness. Swimming upstream of what everyone else wants for her, the lead character experiences a sea change and begins to buck other people’s advice. Laggies  is a stimulating film that deals with individualism and perhaps relies too much on buoying a woman’s true identity with romantic interest but still succeeds in introducing a female character who dares to break away from expectation to do what she wants, even if she hasn’t a clue what that may be.

Sign-spinning for her father, Megan (Knightley) feels comfortable with her low-wage job and her attentive boyfriend (Mark Webber) she’s had since high school. Over 10 years out of school, her core friends have gotten married, are having children, and have sustained careers. The constant reminder of this is an agitation but there is little to move her into action or prove to her that any of those milestones of adulthood would be fulfilling for her. Enter Annika (Kick Ass’ Chloë Grace Moretz), an uppity high schooler who helps hide her for a week in her dad’s house so Megan can make up her mind about lingering questions. Sneaking around Annika’s house, she runs into trouble when confronted by Annika’s lawyer father Craig (Sam Rockwell). Rockwell is as personable as ever, immediately setting any doubts about the film at ease under his hilariously calming influence. Knightley sometimes feels miscast and not up to the task of co-starring in major films, but owns this movie. Her American accent comes across as natural and she is well-suited to the nervous candor her character projects. Megan could quickly obtain all the hallmarks of success if she makes some minor moves (basically just saying “Yes” to the proposals of others) yet something holds her back. The abrupt finalities of these decisions seem to make her sad and as though she is not taking the reigns of her own destiny. Webber is the only troubling aspect of her choices, as he so sympathetically channels love and support for whatever she wants to do. The sensitive communication of his absolute devotion to her actively works against the story’s mystifying resentment of him and confuses more than it aids how concerned the audience feels for her.

This is a much more emotionally accomplished effort than Shelton’s Touchy Feely. The major shift in the outlooks of the main characters from both movies are the same but Megan’s realizations go deeper. Andrea Siegel’s script is essentially and importantly troubled about finding a place in the world for a caring woman who wants to live free of judgment and not define herself by success. This is a rarely seen plot that is given ample time to examine the multitude of crushing precedents women face as they age. To give women characters a chance to step outside of the boxes that society tries to contain them in for a moment is a refreshing endeavor, but is slightly tempered by the choice Megan has to begin and end her personal development with a man. Laggies (which suffers from an awkward title) wallows in indecision to find great moments that recapture the excitement of youth as one slides towards decisions that will (realistically) sooner or later stick for better or worse. Megan is not condemned to suffering for acting indignantly (like Bette Davis was in the prickly Jezebel) or lack of motivation but just seen a person still in the midst of deciding who she wants to be and bestows a freedom that allows her to gloriously mess up. We need more movies that permit women to make mistakes or act outrageously that don’t make fun of them or feel as though they need to compensate the audience with raunchiness to counteract poignant conversations from women about where their lives are heading.

— Lane Scarberry

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