As many indie directors do, Lynn Shelton became a recognizable name following the heralded debut at Sundance of her first film Humpday. She avoided the sophomore slump with her next (and best) picture, Your Sister’s Sister, though she stumbled with her third feature Touchy Feely, which received a tepid response from critics. Shelton finds her stride once again with Laggies, which is the first film she did not also write. The screenplay is credited to Andrea Seigel, a YA author now trying her hand in the movie business.
Laggies is Shelton’s version of the man-child comedy that Judd Apatow and Adam McKay have mastered with a feminist touch. Keira Knightley stars as Megan Burch, a highly educated 28-year old who lacks any ambition. She hasn’t changed much since high school. Megan still hangs out with the same circle of friends, dates the same guy, and retains the same puerile sense of humor. She earns a quick buck by occasionally twirling a sign for her dad’s accounting firm.
Megan’s world is rocked during the wedding of her best friend, Allison (Ellie Kemper). Her nice, but bland, boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber) proposes to her just before Megan catches her father (Jeff Garlin) receiving a handjob from another woman. Megan flees the reception and winds up at a convenience store where she agrees to purchase alcohol for Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her friends. Next thing you know, Megan decides to lay low at Annika’s house after telling everyone she’s going away to a career counseling retreat. In an improbable turn of events, Annika’s single father, Craig (Sam Rockwell), seems all right with this stranger staying at his home. Romance predictably blossoms between the unlikely housemates.
The central plot of Laggies strains credibility with a premise straight out of a hackneyed sitcom. It’s quite the jump in logic for a dad to be so blasé about an adult sleeping in his teenage daughter’s bedroom. Everything wraps up in a neat little bow though it takes longer than half an hour and it’s left in the air if the protagonist learned any valuable life lessons. Credit goes to Shelton for treating her characters with such a gentle hand that you become invested in their stunted emotional journey.
A winning cast also helps. Keira Knightley’s American accent is a bit off-putting and it requires a leap of faith to imagine the British beauty as a slacker on a street corner spinning a sign. Still, she throws herself into the part and it’s satisfying to see her in something so light after the heavy duty lifting in A Dangerous Method or the overwhelming schlock of Pirates of the Caribbean. Knightley’s casting is doubly ironic since actresses of her age are generally cast in the Chloe Moretz role. Moretz herself is a natural. She and Gretchen Mol, as the mother who abandoned her, share a low-key scene that is simultaneously tender and heartbreaking. It’s one of the best moments of Laggies alongside just about anything with Sam Rockwell, who shines as the glib and somewhat awkward father.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Although darker scenes appear to be a bit murky, daytime sequences feature a rich color palette with a slightly saturated look. The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The dialogue is crisp and clear with a score by Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard that’s almost unnoticeable.
The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary track with Lynn Shelton, who speaks about shooting in her hometown, her long-time crew members, and other aspects of the production.
Lagging On with Lynn Shelton (8:46) is the standard EPK-style featurette that looks at the making of the film.
Shooting Seattle: The Look of Laggies (6:01) focuses on how the movie captured the quiet suburban side of Seattle and how the original script was set in Orange County.
Rounding out the extras are a collection of deleted scenes and trailers for other A24 releases.
Film Value: 6
Laggies is such a slight film that you are bound to forget it just as soon as the end credits roll. Yet, Shelton gives us enough of a refreshing take on the romantic comedy to consider this worth a rent.