Laggies, sometimes also referred to as Say When, received mixed reviews at Sundance, after which everybody promptly forgot about it until it started appearing in select theaters in December. Writer Andrea Seigel and director Lynn Shelton have stated that the title is supposed to be a term for adults who are “lagging behind in life,” a sensation I imagine most adults have either experienced or fear experiencing. As such, the film wants to be relatable, but like its title, its relatability is unfortunately limited.
Megan (Keira Knightley) is a 28-year-old college graduate who lives with her high school sweetheart and makes money waving a sign at the road next to her father’s business. When the uncomfortable realities of her life begin to weigh on her – she catches her father cheating on her mom at her friend’s wedding, her boyfriend proposes, and so on – she inexplicably runs away rather than deal with it. She makes friends with teenager Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Annika’s single dad Craig (Sam Rockwell), and spends a week with them, hiding out from her own life.
Laggies is billed as a comedy, to which I would reply “well, sort of.” It’s definitely not a comedy the way we expect any popular comedy to be written these days. It doesn’t roll out the jokes in a series of absurd events, rather the jokes happen to be incidental – and sometimes a little forced – in such a way that it makes it difficult for anyone onscreen to be likable, at least at first. The first chunk of the movie attempts to make you to settle into liking Megan simply by making everyone else obnoxious, anal retentive, or completely unbalanced.
The thing about a movie like Laggies is that the heart of the movie lies in the relatable bits, and as a result if no one in the movie feels relatable then the core of the film goes out the window and you’re just sitting there digesting passable cinematography. The characters in the film don’t become especially relatable until we meet Craig, at which point the writing seems to take a massive leap and everyone drops their stupid veneer of robotic comedy. The movie suddenly acquires a heart because the characters almost instantaneously become people you want to see succeed rather than background characters from Napoleon Dynamite. This is maintained the rest of the film, even with characters who seemed one-dimensional and obnoxious earlier in the movie, and done so well that it’s almost enough to trick you into thinking it applies retroactively. As a result, you leave the movie with a little smile on your face, like someone brought you your second-favorite dessert just-because, forgetting that you had to sit through half an hour of cringe-worthy setup with barely-existent character development to get to it.
The point where the characters become relatable is also the point where the comedic bits become funny instead of just awkward. A replicant telling an off-color joke might make you laugh because of how absurd it feels, but an actual human being making a stupid face as they trip spectacularly over their own feet is much funnier. The comedy is decent, but this is a not a movie you watch when you want a laugh; this is for when you’re an adult who feels like they have no idea what they’re doing with their life (which is most of us, no?) The arrangement of a twenty-something having a friendship with a teenager and also that teenager’s father is somewhat awkward (the movie acknowledges this), but it allows us to see how the sensation of “what am I even doing with my life” comes to people of all ages and life circumstances. It’s trying to be as accessible as possible.
Really, the great strength of this film is how completely unpretentious it is. It’s not trying to be a great cinematic triumph, a work of high art so esoteric that only some of its prospective audience can glean something from it. It wants to be a simple film that tells you it’s okay to struggle, to fall behind, and ask for help getting back on your feet. We see Megan start to make decisions to change her life, how it affects Annika and Craig, and we know that her life will change, likely for the better. It’s a good message, even if the movie takes a few clumsy turns trying to convey it.
Long story short, this is an inoffensive little film that smacks of pleasant smiles and steady reassurance. You’re not alone, little filmgoer. There are many others in all walks of life – whether you’re an awkward teenager, a confused young adult evading commitments, or an adult with a real job – who find it difficult to find their place in the world. For all that I’ve spent this review complaining about Laggies, I’m looking forward to seeing what Seigel writes next; she clearly has something to say even if it wasn’t a particularly stellar work here. If you’re itching to see something to assuage your existential malaise and inability to find where you belong in the world, this movie’ll hold you in its metaphorical arms until you smile a little.Liked This? Share It!