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Sundance 2014: Despite Keira Knightley, ‘Laggies’ drags and droops

January 22nd, 2014 Posted in Arts and Life, Opinion

By Katie Swain
Special from the Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY, Utah—She’s pretty, in her late 20s, college-educated—master’s degree in marriage and family counseling, yet!—has potential, intelligence, charisma . . . and she works part-time for father as a sign-dancer on the street outside her dad’s tax business.

4665_1389014750It could be an interesting premise—the cry for help to reach one’s potential and live a life of meaning is a story that resonates with the Millennial generation. But isn’t it getting a little familiar-sounding?

Director Lynn Shelton’s “Laggies,” making its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, is funny, enjoyable and a definite crowd-pleaser. But it’s also forgettable and predictable, with just a few too many implausible happenstances, even for a Hollywood romantic dramedy.

Megan (played half-heartedly by Keira Knightley) is directionless, bored and unhappy. She has the same group of friends she’s had since high school, including an uptight girlfriend played by Ellie Kemper, who yet again recycles her other very similar roles, and the same boyfriend she went to the prom with. Within the first few minutes, it’s just so obvious that Megan is going to break up with her boyfriend and ditch her friend group in a dramatic whirl of emotion in favor of a more “authentic” lifestyle and a man who is her soul mate.

With few surprises, the movie jumps from one unlikely situation to the next. While at her friend’s wedding, Megan’s boyfriend attempts a marriage proposal and, avoiding any kind of adult reaction, vanishes into a group of high schoolers (led by a girl, Annika, played by Chloe Grace Mortez) and immediately befriends them because, unlike everyone else in her life, they “cut her some slack.”

Attempting to evade her earnest but boring boyfriend’s proposal, Megan leaves for a week-long personal improvement, soul-searching retreat, only to change her mind at the last minute and instead hide out at Annika’s house. Enter Annika’s dad, Craig (played by Sam Rockwell, in easily the best performance of the movie). Craig is funny, nice, recently divorced, strangely OK with a grown woman sleeping over with his daughter for a week, and so obviously the Mr. Right that “Laggies” eventually leads up to.

laggiesThe whole plot of a man and woman being thrown together in an odd and unlikely extended situation has just been done too many times for it to seem romantic or even charming anymore, particularly when the majority of the acting is done with a sort of lukewarm indifference. Believe it or not, there’s even a cliché airplane terminal scene, where Megan realizes once and for all that Craig, not her fiancé, is the one she really loves.

Further troubling is the apparent message of the movie: childish behavior and irresponsibility ultimately pay off. Megan essentially continues to enjoy her carefree lifestyle, acting more like Craig’s daughter than his love interest. While this plot was probably meant to seem cute and charmingly naïve, it instead leaves viewers scratching their heads, wondering why two adults in a fairly normal relationship keeps bringing pedophilia to mind.

Yet again, to little surprise, the film was acquired on Sunday morning by distributor A24, which purchased North American rights for about $2 million. Aiming for a summer release, the film will undoubtedly do well in theaters with the general public as a fun, summery, romantic romp. And then it will be promptly forgotten.

While the dialogue is occasionally quite funny, “Laggies”—like Megan’s coast-along-and-look-pretty attitude—in the end simply lags on.


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