All the outward signs of Laggies suggest director Lynn Shelton is climbing the ladder of mainstream acceptance (or at least what passes for it in modern day America): recognisable film stars in the leading roles of a more structured script written by someone else, filmed with a more polished sheen than is usual in her shaggy-dog, semi-improvised modern comedies. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to dismiss Laggies as a "sell-out": this tale of a twenty-something's belated coming-of-age remains very Lynn-Shelton-like, in its leisurely plotting and its understanding look at the emotional issues of modern life.
Megan (Keira Knightley) is still unemployed and unsure of herself at 29, but knows very well what she doesn't want (even if it takes her a wayward path to finally understand it). Terrified of conforming, of becoming just one more cog in the social machine, she's incredibly reluctant about having to fit in the pre-defined mold people are drawing for her. No wonder that, when faced with the wedding of hyper-straight BFF Allison (Ellie Kemper) and a marriage proposal from longstanding boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber), she goes into denial and runs away to hide at the place of new-found teenage friend Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz), enjoying a sort of glorified sleepover while attempting to sort her life out under pretense of attending a self-help seminar.
What follows isn't always properly resolved narratively, possibly because Andrea Seigel's script seems determined to hit any number of predefined romantic-comedy beats, while Ms. Shelton's method has always been to let things happen in a more organic, spontaneous way. Also, this is more a film about one specific person, where Humpday or Your Sister's Sister were more of ensemble pieces that dealt with a wider cast of characters - even if you can recognise the director's ease with actors in the way the supporting roles aren't just gratuitous and have distinct personalities, drawn in a few well-drawn strokes.
But Ms. Knightley is utterly pitch-perfect as the girl that's looking to learn more about herself, and Ms. Shelton's strengths continue to shine through a more formatted, and admittedly more disappointing, outing than you'd wish for. Laggies is more of a holding pattern than a step forward (or backward) in the director's career.
Cast Keira Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell, Kaitlyn Dever, Jeff Garlin, Ellie Kemper, Mark Webber, Daniel Zovatto
Director Lynn Shelton; screenwriter Andrea Seigel; cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke (colour); composer Benjamin Gibbard; designer John Lavin; costumes Ronald Leamon; editor Nat Sanders; producers Steve Golin, Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Rosalie Swedlin, Myles Nestel, Kevin Frakes and Raj Brinder Singh; production companies Anonymous Content and The Solution Entertainment Group in association with Merced Media Partners, Palmstar Media Capital and Penlife Media
Screened January 11th 2015, Lisbon (DVD screener)