Laggies (A24, R)

laggies 75Megan falls into hanging out with the 16-year-old Annika and her friends, if only because Megan seems to fit in better with them than she does with adults.

 

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Keira Knightley has had a strong 2014: It looks likely she’ll get her second Oscar nomination for her work in the upcoming The Imitation Game; we learned she can sing in Begin Again; and she’s the star of Laggies, a charming, if slight riff on extended adolescence, in the vein of Noah Baumbach’s films like Frances Ha, Greenberg, and Kicking & Screaming. (We’ll ignore her presence in this past January’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; they can’t all be zingers.)

Knightley’s character in Laggies is Megan, who is in her late 20s, still dating her same boring-but-sweet high school boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber, aka Stephen Stills from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), and still hanging out with her increasingly crappy high school friends. They seem increasingly crappy, anyway; the bigger issue may be that they are growing up, and Megan is not. Instead, she’s happy spinning signs on the street for her dad’s (Jeff Garlin) business, and also spinning in her tracks in life. After some panic regarding a friend’s wedding and Anthony’s long-overdue proposal, Megan falls into hanging out with the 16-year-old Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz, excellent as always) and her friends, if only because Megan seems to fit in better with them than she does with adults.

But then, Megan is older than Annika and her group by a pretty wide margin, so she (Megan) finds that she also is suitable to be friends with Annika’s dad, Craig (Sam Rockwell, also excellent as always), which puts her in a strange position. She doesn’t really have to choose between hanging out with Annika or Craig, as both are surprisingly understanding, but both do seem to think it’s weird that she’d want to hang out with the other, and rightfully so. Of course, this all serves as a metaphor between Megan’s trouble growing up and the life as an adult that awaits her, but that’s obvious enough that, if you see the film, you won’t need someone like me to point it out.

I’m not always a big fan of Knightley, but she’s good here, and the rest of the cast is strong, as well. One person of whom I’m becoming an increasing fan, though, is director Lynn Shelton. Although she has so far not made one great film, she has made a handful of pretty good films (2009’s Humpday; 2011’s Your Sister’s Sister), and done some decent work on TV, as well (Mad Men, The Mindy Project). She’s good at finding the appealing side of her performers (she’s the only person I think can pull a good performance out of Mark Duplass), and is aided in that here by working with actors who are already pretty appealing. So while I wouldn’t expect anyone to be bowled over by Laggies, it is an entertaining, clever enough diversion that won’t make you feel stupider for having watched it. | Pete Timmermann

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