by Jared Chinigo
If you come to “Laggies” expecting nothing more than a lighthearted romantic comedy, you’ll leave the theater perfectly satisfied. However, it feels like the film is trying to be much more, and—in this respect—it fails.
The story follows Megan (Keira Knightley), a 28-year-old woman who’s been living a rather aimless existence since she graduated high school. Her job prospects and group of friends haven’t changed in the last eleven years, and she’s still with the same boyfriend she had on prom night. Her aforementioned friends have grown, developed careers, and begun getting married, causing her to become an outsider within her own group. Megan’s problems finally come to a head when her boyfriend, Anthony (Mark Webber), proposes to her, prompting her to take a weeklong break from her life under the guise of a business seminar. Rather than leave town, she moves in with a local teen, Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz), and her single father, Craig (Sam Rockwell).
The script—penned by newcomer Andrea Seigel—is a mixed bag. It has some genuine laugh-out-loud moments courtesy of Moretz and Rockwell, and features some great running gags, among them an anorexic turtle and boxed wine. However, even the most comedic high points of the film, particularly those at the beginning, are marred by a cheesiness that ultimately makes them fall flat. To the film’s credit, it attempts to cover several relevant themes—acting your age, letting go of a fantasy, and ultimately taking control of your life. The film chooses to promulgate dramatic tension and comedic moments rather than explore these complicated ideas in depth, and suffers greatly for it. It almost feels like Seigel and director Lynn Shelton were trying to combine a romantic comedy with a character drama, which leaves the film with an uneven tone and the viewer with a confused expression on their face.
Despite the actors giving it their all, the script allows no elbow room for them to give truly memorable performances. Not to say there are no standouts: Sam Rockwell, an underrated talent, brings a seamless blend of humor and depth to the film where the script fails to do so. It is no coincidence that the film improves dramatically once his character is introduced. The cast is fairly solid, although it is worth mentioning that Keira Knightly does a poor job of concealing her British accent. The fluctuation in her speech, often in the span of one scene, is an irritating and unwelcome distraction.
Compared to relatively minor flaws in the film, the biggest disappointment is how Megan’s character is dealt with. The character could have been so much more compelling, something reflected by the inconsistence in her offbeat views and moments of insight. Unfortunately, the script bounces her back and forth between Anthony and Craig, making it feel like her character is defined more by whoever she’s romantically involved with rather than who she is. It would’ve been interesting to see who she is independent of a relationship.
“Laggies” features great actors and good ideas, but ultimately suffers from muddled execution, seen most prominently in its rushed and predictable ending. The film would have been more memorable had the tone been consistent. However, the final product is another average—albeit, entertaining—romantic comedy. Ironically, you could say that the film suffers from the same arrested development it’s trying to critique: much like Megan’s character, it just doesn’t know what it wants to be.