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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Laggies Review: Unlikeable Lead Dooms This Standard Rom-Com

Laggies offers us nothing new, and a lead we can do without.
Review by Matt Cummings
Romantic Comedies seem to be on their way out: once the staple of Date Night, these estrogen-fests lurk on fantasy television programs wrapped around vampires and medical dramas. The reason for this change: Rom-Coms no longer make money, as Hollywood sets its sights on big returns from Horror and Superhero flicks. Sadly, the Lynn Shelton-directed Laggies does more to prove the genre's problems than solve them.

For professional misfit Megan (Keira Knightley), every day is a struggle to stay focused on the prize: hanging out at her parent's house watching TV, with no motivation or career prospects, and watching her high school chums get married, have kids, and succeed in their careers. After Megan's boyfriend (Mark Webber) attempts an ill-advised marriage proposal at their friend's wedding - in which she also sees her father cheating with another woman - Megan runs off to think things through. She meets the teen Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz), who in turn introduces Megan to Annika's weary single dad Craig (Sam Rockwell). As the two begin to connect, Megan hides out at Craig's house, keeping her true location from her boyfriend, who thinks she's off at a self-help conference. But her lies are never far behind, forcing Megan to decide if she wants to lag behind, or make a big change in her life.

If that summary reads a bit odd, I don't blame you. This is not a down-on-your-luck inspirational story about love, devotion, or motivation, rather about a loser and a leech who's no closer to change by the end than when she began. Her friends - seemingly the most respectable thing about Laggies - are portrayed as decent but disconnected, making me wonder why she felt the need to leave them in the first place. Perhaps they were too inspiring/successful for her? That's not a trait of successful storytelling, and without those moral anchors in place, our lead comes off as shallow and unwilling to take responsibility. Knightley's mousy and frankly unkept appearance (someone please give her a comb) makes her almost instantly unlikable. The more you learn about her, the less you like. I thought her appearance in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit might have torpedoed that production, and now with Laggies I'm sure of it.

The only bright spots are Moretz and Rockwell, who do their best to prop up the listless script by newbie Andrea Siegel. The 'COM' in Rom-Com is supposed to mean hilarity, but here Siegel's jokes fall mostly flat. When moments like these leave a noticeable silence in the theater, you know things are not working. Moreover, Siegel's choice to paint Megan as nothing more than a pathetic tree jumper (falling into Craig's arms as if doing so will suddenly help her directionless life) simply moves her problem to another tree. In many ways, you're forced to conclude that her ex-boyfriend got the better end of the deal once the pivotal moment arrives.

And then there are the musical interludes, placed there as we see them in Vampire Diaries, Grey's Anatomy, or any other similar CW/ABC production. Sad scene happens, cue the sad and lonely dishwater score by Ben Gibbard. Rinse. Repeat. The production feels this clockwork-like, sapping any chemistry from our leads who never truly win us over. There's too many supporting cast members to feel any attachment to them as well, with none of them standing out from the other. They all seem to have more going for them than Megan, but aren't around long enough for us to care.

Laggies suffers from clichéd writing and execution, as well as a thoroughly unlikable lead in Knightley. She alone sinks this forgettable film, but it's possible that no one could have saved it from what could be an all-too-quick theatrical run. With too many quality choices this month, you're strongly encouraged to pursue other options.

Laggies is strangely rated R for language, some sexual material and teen partying and has a runtime of 99 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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