Keira Knightley’s recent efforts to free herself from the corsets of period films like “Pride and Prejudice” are going much better than some of her earlier work. Ever seen “Domino”? The leap from portraying Elizabeth Bennet to a portraying a bounty hunter was not successfully accomplished, to say the least. But, in “Laggies” she is far more convincing, and charming, as a directionless American twenty-something.
Written and directed by a female, namely Lynn Shelton of “Your Sister’s Sister,” this film hilariously establishes the special hell that is particular to certain female rituals, especially weddings and bachelorette parties. Knightley plays Megan, a reluctant member of a group of high school best pals who are still claustrophobically close to each other. See her squirm as the “fun” bachelorette party activities commence.
While her pals dutifully open businesses, get married and give birth, Megan holds a sign in front of her father’s accounting firm, despite also holding a master’s degree in counseling. Somehow Knightley and the director manage to make her struggle interesting, believable, and not depressing. Part of it is the sweet relationship between her and her father, played by Jeff Garlin. Somehow when she drops in on her parents, plops on the couch and asks if they can make their own pizzas for dinner, the whole thing just makes sense on some level. I think it’s because the dad is just so happy to see her.
In the midst of an already excruciating wedding, Megan’s longtime boyfriend drops to one knee and she flees the scene. In front of a grocery store, she’s implored by some likeable teens to buy them some beer and she finds that hanging out with them is far more appealing than returning to the wedding and her life in general.
Chloe Grace Moritz plays Annika, the teenage girl that Megan takes up with. Abandoned by her flaky mom, she lives with her lawyer father, and who better to play a cranky but appealing eccentric guy than Sam Rockwell? The dynamics of this lonely and lost trio play out over a week in which Megan crashes at Annika’s house.
Megan takes advantage of everyone’s anxiety about her career to pretend to be going on a week long career seminar, all the while covertly hanging out with a bunch of teenagers, and, of course, one cute, rumpled father. The various turns of events don’t have to be shocking to be effective. The level of transformation we’re expected to believe these people undergo is completely believable.
The size of this story fit perfectly into the space of the film. Keira Knightley created a sympathetic character in circumstances that were kind of suspect. The best part about her is that she wasn’t excessively adorable. As naïve and immature as her actions were at times, she remained compelling but not precious and flawed but not detestable.
Meanwhile, Sam Rockwell turned down his wacky Sam Rockwell-ness, and you genuinely felt for the guy. Then, holding the entire story together was Chloe Grace Moritz, whose character was also written and performed really well. She had just enough problems, and they all seemed true, and they didn’t get solved melodramatically. I guess I just believed this little movie, and I liked watching it.
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