03 December, 2014

Review: "Laggies" (**½)

Chloe Grace Moretz and Keira Knightley star in "Laggies"

Lynn Shelton has created one of my most favorite movies of all time. Now I haven’t seen all the movies in the history of all time, so that first statement isn’t entirely accurate, but of all the movies I have seen, Lynn Shelton has captured me. But not with “Laggies,” her most recent directorial venture, but with “Your Sister’s Sister.”

I saw “Your Sister’s Sister” three years go, and this is the only time I’ve done this, but once the credits rolled, I immediately played the movie again in its entirety (I was watching it OnDemand). This isn’t the best movie ever made, it’s not even among the best, but this movie, it reached inside my chest, worked around my breastbone, and squeezed my heart until I felt nearly ready to burst. I loved its honesty, its sincerity, its small, freehanded charm. Everything about it, to me, is gorgeous. And since watching “Your Sister’s Sister,” I’ve followed Lynn Shelton’s career with a magnifying glass and a fine-tooth comb. I have a Google Alert set for her name. So when “Laggies” headlines started filling my inbox, as you can imagine, my excitement started to boil.

And then I saw it. And that’s not to say that “Laggies” is a bad movie, because it’s not, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations for Shelton either. And, partly, that’s my fault. I can’t expect the shoe to drop in the same way, the punch to land in the same place; I can’t expect to be affected the same way because it’s not the same. I’ve seen it, I recognize it. It’s like watching a really great band cover your actual favorite band; it’s not bad, but it’s not the same. That’s how I feel about Shelton’s work. That’s a probably personal thing, though, something I’ve got to get over.

“Laggies” is a movie that Shelton hadn’t penned herself, instead first time screenwriter, Andrea Seigel, who does a fine job, wrote it. It’s a fine movie, it really is. For being categorized as an indie, it’s wildly commercial. Keira Knightley plays the gorgeous, quirky, emotionally-stunted Meghan, who after her adoring boyfriend proposes, has a straight-up panic attack (shakes and sweats and bug-eyed look included) and moves in with a sixteen year old named Annika (Chloe Grace Mortez) and her lonely father, Craig. Craig, as a divorce lawyer, breaks up marriages for a living; the irony of that is not lost on me. Meghan proceeds, in the five days she’s living with them, to fall in love with Craig (Sam Rockwell), just as Craig does with her. How adorable.

If there’s anything I love it’s a coming of age story. It’s one of my favorite genres to watch and to read. I can identify with any character whose forced into adulthood and forced to confront adult issues that they’re emotionally and financially and mentally not ready to deal with. I can relate to that. I like that because it’s honest. But “Laggies” was lacking in that department; the movie didn’t feel honest, it felt extremely preordained and emotionally measured.

In movies, I think, we all look for someone we can relate to, we look for something to identify with, someone who shows us a small part of ourselves. And when we find that in a film, it’s special. That’s our emotional connection. And when that character we identify with becomes flat or false or ancillary, that’s sort of a personal affront. That’s how I felt about Meghan in “Laggies.” This film didn’t have the gumption or the boldness or… I don’t know, it somehow felt lacking and I’m not even sure, honestly, what it was missing. But I wanted a bit of a punch, and “Laggies,” for me, felt a little trite and superficially impassioned.

Chloe Grace Mortez holds her own against big hitters like Rockwell and Knightley, but that’s certainly not atypical for her. I’ve always enjoyed her work (check out “Kick-Ass”) even if I don’t necessarily enjoy the source material. Sam Rockwell, expectedly, is a captivating performer, and “Laggies” is no exception.

If you want to check out Shelton’s work, I’d suggest and encourage “Your Sister’s Sister.” Then “Humpday.” Then “Laggies.” Then “Touchy Feely.”

2.5 out of 5 stars.

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