Take a Drink: for each indie cliche
Take a Drink: anytime a new character actor pops up
Do a Shot: for the turtle scene
Do a Shot: during each thoughtful scene
By: Matt Conway (Three Beers) –
To those who have read my reviews in my past, I’ve made it no secret my fancy for the indie dramedy genre. 2014 in particular has been quite the strong year, with a lot of unique indies really being quite good, and with most of them being a big surprise. More mainstream hits like Begin Again and St. Vincent have received a lot of attention and for good reason, but others have gone a bit more under the radar. Despite the rather mixed critical reception, Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here was a very genuine and heartfelt flick, and smaller indies like Happy Christmas and Lullaby also really flew under that radar.
One of the indie dramedies I’ve most been anticipating is Laggies. Directed by one of my personal favorites, Lynn Shelton, Laggies made a name for itself by posting respectable reviews at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and soon after being picked up by upstart studio A24. With A24 kind of dumping the film into theaters now and the hype dimming down, very few people seem to be talking about the film. This is a shame, as Laggies is a flawed, yet effective dramedy.
Laggies follows Megan, a college graduate who is stuck doing menial jobs and living with her high school sweetheart. After her boyfriend unexpectedly proposes to her, Megan decides to escape for a week. She takes refuge at 16 year old Annika’s house, who lives with her single father Craig.
The cast here is just as charming as you’d expect. Keira Knightley’s career has taken a lot of forms, from her dull role in the Pirates of the Carribean franchise to period pieces like Atonement and Anna Karenina. Between her role in this film and Begin Again, she seems to be entering a new phase of her career, one that really utilizes her talents. Knightley has a natural charm that is undeniable, and despite her beauty comes off as a very relatable and down-to-earth person. Here, Knightley shines as the flawed Megan, and her journey of finding herself in adulthood is a worthy pursuit.
While Knightley shines, the supporting cast also does quite well. Sam Rockwell is on fire it seems with picking roles recently, between The Way, Way Back, Seven Psychopaths, and his great role here. Rockwell’s personality is one of a kind, and he can get big laughs with such ease. Unlike most former child stars, Chloe Grace Moretz continues to grow into a solid actress, as she continues to do a wide-range of interesting projects, while giving consistently good performances. Other supporting players such as Jeff Garlin, Mark Webber, and Ellie Kemper also do a good job in their respective roles.
Giving another great effort in the director’s chair is Lynn Shelton, who continues to be one of my favorite directors working in independent film today. For Shelton, Laggies is her first non-microbudget mumblecore film, but she is still very much able to bring her indie charm here. Shelton’s main style is essentially a lack of style, as she often times is very hands off with her direction to keep focus on the characters and their relationships. This is what makes some of her films like Your Sisters’ Sister and now Laggies feel very realistic and grounded in reality.
For the first time in a Shelton-directed film, Shelton herself did not also write the script. That job is given to first time scribe Andrea Seigel, who gives a solid effort for her first time out. Laggies thematically centers around the struggles of life post-college, in which people are trying to find themselves as adults in the world. Last year’s fantastic Frances Ha tackled this issue as well, and it’s one that in my opinion should be talked more about in film. Seigel’s unique perspective leads to a lot of genuine and thoughtful points about this time in one’s life, and how we can’t lag about and must keep moving forward.
The script, however, does not do a lot new as far as indie dramedies go. The script follows a lot of the beats that other indies do, and you can kind of see the end in the horizon after only a few scenes. That does not mean these moments do not feel realistic, but the dramatic effect is kind of gone since the beats of the film are seen from afar.
Some of the subplots of the film are also lackluster in comparison to the main story. One subplot in particular following her high school boyfriend who proposes to her at the beginning of the film feels like an unnecessary area of conflict in the film. Poor Mark Webber, who almost has a career now in indie films of being just the standard boyfriend type character.
While Laggies does address some of the issues of growing up, almost all of the thematic material feels somewhat simple. Seigel’s script does bring a unique perspective on growing up, but these ideas are covered at a very basic level, not having the depth to have a bigger emotional effect on the audience. It’s a shame, because the cast is doing such great work here, but some of these issues prevent the film from truly standing out.
Laggies is not Lynn Shelton’s best effort, but it is still yet another genuine indie dramedy with a fair share of laughs and heartfelt moments. The trio of lead performances really have fantastic chemistry together, and make up for some of this film’s faults.