Written by Andrea Siegel
Directed by Lynn Shelton
Megan is nearing her thirties, in a committed relationship with her high school sweetheart, and helping her lifelong best friend out with her wedding. However, she has no direction in life and seemingly no desire to follow any particular path. She does have a master’s in family counseling but seems frozen when it comes to pursuing that career. After running out on her boyfriend’s proposal, Megan meets Annika, a teenage girl looking for someone to buy her and her friends beer. Megan goes along and then hangs out with the group. Days later she is faking going out of town for a conference and decides to bunk with Annika. They are discovered by Annika’s father, Craig, a lawyer who is raising her daughter by himself. Over the course of the week, Megan reevaluates what is essential to her and the indecision that led her to this point in her life.
Laggies isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good either. Director Lynn Shelton is a filmmaker who I enjoy though. I first came across her work in the indie film Humpday, but have enjoyed much more of it without knowing she was the one behind the camera. Shelton has directed numerous episodes of Fresh Off the Boat, Love, The New Girl, and one-off episodes here and there of other popular television series. So, I know that it wasn’t her work on the film that felt off to me. Instead, I think the blame is on a script that does little to flesh out important side characters and instead seems to just be reiterating the same notes on its main character.
For Laggies to work, Annika needs to be a genuinely compelling character, a juxtaposition to aimless Megan. However, we don’t really get a sense of Annika’s personality. There are plot points and character traits clumsily laid out (she misses her absentee mom, she likes a guy but is afraid to tell him, she is typically embarrassed by her dad), but I can’t say I know who her character is at the core. This has a lot to do with Chloe Grace Moretz, the actress in the role, who I personally find to be a pretty surface level actor. Once upon a time. Moretz was able to get by on the gimmick of her acting, particularly the Hit-Girl character from Kick-Ass. As she has grown up and been handed more mature roles it’s becoming increasingly clear she doesn’t have the abilities to deliver a subtle, complex performance.
On the flip side, we have Sam Rockwell as Craig who once again proves the quality of his acting as he manages to rise above the well-tread and cliche script. He adds little bits of personality to his character that make him complex and interesting to watch. And Rockwell plays it very interesting counter to Keira Knightley’s Megan whom the script is pretty much telling us be his inevitable true love. That is one major problem with the text that it can’t escape romantic comedy cliche formulas. What would be more interesting is for the predictable third act relationship crisis beat to not be solved in such a quick and trite way. If the film is about Megan’s confrontation of her personal apathy and indecision, then the romance should be a secondary plot and remain a lesson for her moving forward.
Laggies is just never does anything interesting with the pieces it sets up. Megan witnesses her father in a compromising position at her friend’s wedding and then appears to be the impetus for her running away. However, in the third act, she talks to him about it, and it’s all been resolved off-screen. “Yeah, I was honest with your mother about this, and she forgave me, and I won’t do it again.” Her dad is also guilty of enabling Megan by providing her a job at his accounting office and never pushing her to do anything with her counseling degree. Her mother appears to be upset about this behavior from her husband, and it’s never really dealt with. Even Megan’s backstory of getting a degree in family counseling feels sloppy and doesn’t make sense. She had a master’s and says her reasoning for never pursuing it was that during college she was never able to connect with the clients she worked with. I find that hard to believe, that out of the dozens or more people she worked with as an intern she never connected to any of them? Based on the way she treats and lies to people around her, I wonder if she isn’t a sociopath.
Laggies doesn’t feel like an A24 film in that it is entirely by the numbers. It does feel very in line with most of the movies I’ve watched from A24’s 2014 though. This sophomore continues to be an extremely rough one, but we are coming to a hopefully strong close with the next film, A Violent Year.