Friday, April 24, 2015

Laggies (2014) [R] ****

A film review by James Berardinelli for ReelViews.net on Nov. 6, 2014

Maturity can be an evanescent quality. Sometimes, even when you've acquired it, you don't recognize it. As a grown woman or man, having left childhood long behind, it's still possible to think of oneself as a young person playing the part of an adult. Many introspective individuals have probably had the experience of suddenly recognizing that, by virtue of their chronological age, they no longer fit in with a group of teenagers. That part of life is gone, never to come again. Time to move on…

For Megan (Kiera Knightley), high school graduation was 10 years ago. Now, at age 28, unemployed and adrift in her home town of Seattle (despite an advanced college degree), she finds herself at loose ends, like another verse in Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days. All of her friends are married (or marrying) and accepting the responsibilities of their new positions. But something in Megan rebels against it. She finds herself instead seeking the companionship of 16-year old Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz), a kid she meets by chance and ends up forming a friendship with. Feeling suffocated by her life, which includes a well-meaning but inept fiancĂ©, Anthony (Mark Webber), a philandering father, and busybody neighbors, she puts her life on hold and heads off to Annika's for an extended slumber party. Annika's single father, Craig (Sam Rockwell), is suspicious of this friendship between a grown woman and his still developing daughter but, like Annika, he is drawn to Megan, although perhaps for different reasons.

Initially, we are invited to see Megan as being trapped in a state of arrested development, unable to move on from the best years of her life, confined in the past and unwilling to face the future. As the narrative unfolds, however, we determine that Megan's stasis is not the result of immaturity but a fear of entering the Stepford Wife lifestyle embraced by her friends. What attracts Megan to Annika isn't necessarily her youth but the possibilities inherent in that youth. Annika is with like-minded people who appreciate her for who and what she is. Megan's same-age friends have grown apart from her but are trying to keep her close. They, not her, are clinging to the past.

Over the course of her career, Kiera Knightley has played her share of famous characters, including Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennet and Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, but in some ways she's at her best portraying contemporary characters: Jules in Bend it Like Beckham, Penny in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Megan in this movie. The performance is natural and the emotions are unforced. We feel for Megan and, most importantly, we understand her. She is ably abetted by two strong co-stars: the up-and-coming Chloe Grace Moretz, who has become the go-to-girl for female teenage roles, and quirky character actor Sam Rockwell.

Director Lynn Shelton opts for a simple shooting style that emphasizes relationships and dialogue rather than trying to call attention to the filmmaker's talent. The party scenes have just the right amount of chaos and the quieter moments don't feel rushed. I have some issues about the ending, which is too pat and upbeat, but that's only five minutes out of 100. For the most part, Laggies offers an engaging portal into the life of an appealingly confused 28-year old who doesn't have all the answers and isn't afraid to admit it. Coming-of-age stories, it seems, needn't be limited to teenagers. [Berardinelli’s rating: *** out of 4 stars]

Labels: comedy, romance, teenager


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