Overeducated and underemployed, 28 year old Megan (Keira Knightley) is in the throes of a quarterlife crisis. Squarely into adulthood with no career prospects, no particular motivation to think about her future and no one to relate to, Megan is comfortable lagging a few steps behind – while her friends check off milestones and celebrate their new grown-up status. When her high-school sweetheart (Mark Webber) proposes, Megan panics and- given an unexpected opportunity to escape for a week – hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year old Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Annika’s world-weary single dad Craig (Sam Rockwell). Lynn Shelton, whose unique directorial voice created such astutely observed comedies as Your Sister’s Sister and Humpday, crafts a sweet, romantic coming-of-age comedy about three people who find their lives intertwined in the most unconventional way as they make through the imperfect realities of modern day life.
Maybe it’s because of my proximity to Megan’s age, but I get Megan’s particular sense of anxiety, and I believe it’s one many people in my age group will understand. Following a lifetime of being told we can be whatever we want, as long as we get an education, and being told that we’re great at what we do, I believe there’s a general malaise people in this group are experiencing now that we’re expected to find employment that may not click with our plans, and find a workforce harder than ever to penetrate thanks to the financial crises of the past several years.
Between that understanding and Keira Knightley’s utterly charming and thoroughly believable performance, Laggies makes for a sweet coming-of-age comedy that’s specific to the 20-somethings of today.
I make mention of “thoroughly believable” because Megan’s reaction to the pressures in her life – a slow-moving boyfriend, a group of friends marrying and having children, a surprising discovery regarding her parents, and uncertainty about her career path – is to regress back to a teenager. Kind of. Her relationship with Annika, a girl who hits Megan up to buy her friends some alcohol, is the stuff of fantasy. What 20-something is going to hit up a girl she just met to stay with her for a week in hiding? On top of that, what father would allow Megan to stay? Obviously, Annika’s remarkably laid-back father will allow it.
And yet, it largely works. The bulk of that success falls on Knightley, whose age matches the character but look skews a bit younger. She physically has less in common with her long-term friends, and she genuinely looks more at ease with Annika and her friends, without trying for some age-inappropriate fashion choices. Beyond that, Megan’s questioning of her life is played with genuinely. There are legitimate issues in Megan’s life, and as the film progresses, we see more why Megan is somewhat developmentally arrested at this point in her life.
Megan’s eventual growth comes in part from her interactions with Annika and Craig, who are both also recovering from their own issues, largely surrounding abandonment from Annika’s mother years prior. As Megan helps Annika, and eventually Craig, she’s able to find a path for herself. The end result is somewhat predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless.
I’ve mentioned Knightley’s solid work here enough, but I have to give credit to her two main costars here as well. Chloë Grace Moretz was a remarkable child actor, and as she enters adulthood, she’s making some interesting choices. There’s an innocence to her, even after her Kick-Ass roles, that carries over to Annika. As for Sam Rockwell, he’s one of the few actors who could believably pull off the sort of father figure this film requires, and still have chemistry of a different sort with Megan.
Those relationships form the core of Laggies, and they’re essential to the film’s success. Knightley, Moretz and Rockwell are all up to the challenge, and make this film into an enjoyable, heartstrings-tugging comedy.