DVD review: Lynn Shelton’s ‘Laggies’ is a refreshingly relaxed and real coming-of-age story

Laggies is on DVD in Australia now via. Entertainment One. Available at JB HiFi and other home entertainment retailers. 

Why do we place so much importance on deciding our future at 17 years old? Aren’t we supposed to grow beyond our high school selves and what we think we want then? They’re the questions at the centre of Laggies, a blissfully laid back and somewhat unconventional coming-of-age dramedy. The film is the sixth from director Lynn Shelton, who is known for Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister, low-budget, loosely plotted yarns that are sometimes heavy on improvisation. Shelton’s film, the first to not be written by her, is another addition to the arrested development/self-discovery genre largely popularised by knucklehead man-children (see: pretty much anything Adam Sandler has his name on) and toilet humour. But Laggies still possesses, despite the lack of improvisation, the same looseness that makes Shelton’s films so fresh and unique. In fact, it only makes what could have been an addition to a well-worn genre feel refreshing and genuinely delightful.

Megan (Keira Knightley)’s journey to late-20s coming-of-age is spurred on by a chain of events that make her realise that perhaps it’s time to move beyond the rut she’s worked herself into. Working as a sign twirler for her dad’s accounting business, her life beyond grad school is watching her old high school friends (one of which is played by Ellie Kemper) and boyfriend (Mark Webber) find success and happiness and get married, but feeling utterly disconnected from them. She finds she relates more to a group of teenagers she meets one night outside a supermarket, chiefly Annika (Chloe Moretz) and Misty (Kaitlyn Dever, who yet again steals the show in her small role). Deciding she needs a week to clear her head and decide what to do with her future, she escapes from her ‘normal’ life to go live with Annika and her father (Sam Rockwell).

It’s easy to underrate a good comedic performance, and they prove to perhaps be Laggies‘s biggest asset. Sam Rockwell, who appears here in a classic Rockwell role as a smart-talking lawyer father, has been giving them for years, but here, it’s lead Keira Knightley that really impresses. As Megan, a Seattle-living, over-qualified, late 20-something who is stuck at the crossroads of the future, Knightley is playing well against her well-known type, which only makes the performance more delightful. Here, she slips perfectly into the role, donning a flawless American accent that doesn’t slip for even a millisecond, and a wonderful loose limbed-ness that makes her an absolute joy to spend 90 minutes with. She, despite the fact that she looks exactly the same, is unrecognisable.

Shelton’s film plays with genre conventions, making jokes about the age of actors who play high schoolers, and asking why, in a culture that places such an emphasis on youth, do we place such stock in not being youthful, able to discover ourselves and move beyond our 17 year old selves. Moretz and Dever’s characters are some of the most realistic teenagers I’ve seen on screen in some time, who actually look like soon-to-be graduates instead of actors in their late 20s pretending to be teenagers. They don’t spout unrealistically philosophical dialogue, scream at their parents that they’re ruining their life, or fit into a clique. They’re not demonised or judged or laughed at, they’re just normal 17 year olds, blissfully free of the myriad of maddening cliches.

While Laggies may feel like somewhat of a minor key at times, Shelton creates a film that is blissfully laidback and natural, that lets the characters breathe and exist without forcing them towards any big epiphanies. On the surface, it looks like just another film out of indie dramedy factory the Sundance Film Festival, but as it meanders along, feeling warmer and more airy than many a coming-of-age film, you realise you’re watching something truly special.

Rating: 4/5

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