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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 31 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 44
Shelton's Laggies a lively, energetic romp
Arts & Entertainment
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Shelton's Laggies a lively, energetic romp

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

LAGGIES
Now Playing


While at her best friend Allison's (Ellie Kemper) wedding, the high-strung, controlling type-A head plastic of her former high school clique, Seattleite Megan (Keira Knightley) has a minor nervous breakdown after catching her father, Ed (Jeff Garlin), engaging in some impromptu risqué business mere moments after longtime beau Anthony (Mark Webber) surprises her with a marriage proposal. Too shocked to think coherently, the aimless 28-year-old drives out into the night, ending up in a local grocery store parking lot making the off-the-cuff decision to buy alcohol for a handful of teenagers.

One thing leads to another, and soon Megan is avoiding her troubles by taking refuge in the home of high schooler Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz), telling friends and family she's leaving for the week to attend a self-help seminar. While the teen's father Craig (Sam Rockwell) admittedly finds it odd this young woman is hiding out with his rebellious yet impressionable daughter, he's also too good-natured and easygoing to send her packing like he should. It's a crazy situation, to be certain, but it's also just the sort of vacation from the real world Megan needs, and by revisiting her youth she just might learn what it means to be a responsible adult, and move forward with her life like those closest to her have been hoping for some time now.

Director Lynne Shelton's Laggies is, without questions, her most accomplished film to date. While lacking the cutting razor-sharp wit of either Humpday or Your Sister's Sister (both of which she scripted), the movie itself is so breathlessly energetic, so full of life and comedic inspiration, the fact it's not as profound or as revealing as the filmmaker's prior efforts is hardly disastrous. If anything, working with neophyte screenwriter Andrea Seigel has invigorated Shelton, and there are moments here that had me grinning ear to ear in vivacious joy.

It starts with Knightley. Coupled with her endearing turn in Begin Again, the actress is on a splendiferous roll, returning to her personable roots showcased to such great effect in early turns in films like Bend It Like Beckham and Pride & Prejudice. She's delightful, making what could have been an insufferable, lay-about of a character instead into a relatable charmer intent on exploring her own inner workings while trying to figure out who she is and what it is they truly want out of life. Knightley makes every twist, every turn of the woman's personality organic, natural, and even when the script contrivances fall a little into sitcom pitter-patter platitudes, the actress constantly rises above to make them feel honest and authentic.

She's matched by Moretz, who finally has a decent movie to take comfort in after a seeming string of unfortunate, mildly disappointing (Carrie, The Equalizer, Dark Shadows) to positively insufferable (If I Stay, Kick-Ass 2) misfires, and Rockwell, both of whom are sublime. The former has a spunky effervescence that bellies interior unexplored traumas aching for release while the latter is as charming and as romantically appealing as he's ever been, even if his character isn't always believable. If anything, he's more a device to help propel Megan in the proper direction than he is anything else, and it's a testament to Rockwell's immense talents that he's able to make Craig as winning and as three-dimensional as he ultimately does.

But things don't stop there, Shelton's gift for casting as glorious here as it has ever been. There are great moments of inspiration for Garlin, Kemper, Webber, Gretchen Mol (as Craig's purposefully absent ex-wife) and especially Short Term 12 scene-stealer Kaitlyn Dever, making the most of her role as Annika's quick-witted, acid-tongued best friend Misty who sees through Megan right from the start. There isn't a single moment where Dever appears on the screen that she doesn't take center stage, proving again to be a singular talent worthy of keeping a keen eye upon.

The overall arc of the film is hardly surprising, and it isn't like Seigel's script has much hidden underneath its sleeve. Where Megan is headed won't shock anyone, and as far as Shelton is concerned this is easily the most conventional and straight-forward story she has ever chosen to tell. There is a distinct familiarity to events that can be moderately uninspiring, and by the time our heroine finally decides what to do, part of me couldn't help but wonder what took her so long to figure it all out.

So what? Shelton continues to grow as a filmmaker, and with Laggies she's constructed her most cinematically inventive and visually intriguing effort to date. On top of that, she continues to improve as a storyteller, making even the most cliché and obvious dramatic and comedic elements feel fresh and alive. While not a great movie, this is certainly an entertaining one, and by the time it ends the only thing a reasonable person would want to do is watch it again immediately with little to no pause between viewings whatsoever.

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The Way He Looks - An interview with writer/director Daniel Ribeiro
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Calling all Tevyes, Goldes, Lazars, and Hodels!
Seattle Musical Theatre presents Fiddler on the Roof

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Arouet presents the world premiere of an original play: The Fierce Urgency of Now
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CoCA's 22nd 24-Hour Art Marathon & Auction: Thursday, Nov. 13 - Friday, Nov. 15
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Music of Remembrance to premiere new dances by Spectrum Dance Theater's Donald Byrd this November
The dynamic program will feature works by Schoenberg, Smit, Kattenburg and Terezinprisoners

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The Seattle Public Library presents Richard Blanco's new memoir The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood on November 10
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Margaret Cho discusses Joan Rivers, holiday plans and that Weird Al video
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Northwest News
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LETTERS
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Pop goes the quartet: Well-Strung plays intriguing mix of music
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Shelton's Laggies a lively, energetic romp
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Agreeably nauseating Nightcrawler a toxic wonder
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Seattle South Asian Film Festival 2014 Preview, Capsule Reviews SSAFF includes six films concerning LGBT issues
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