Keira Knightley as a slacker – who would’ve thought? The British belle has attracted her fair share of criticism over the years, particularly in her homeland, where her more wooden performances have landed her with a rather unfortunate nickname: IKEA Knightley. Seeking a Friend For the End of the World exhibited some promise, not because it was any good though, because it was Knightley’s first significant step away from the snippety, rather boring English period characters for which she was (often patronizingly) renowned. Laggies, a genuinely funny, if patchy little movie that falls into catastrophic pieces around the hour mark, is another move in the right direction for the young actress.
Knightley plays Megan, a 20-something slacker content to mooch off her parents and constantly spurn her yuppie boyfriend’s attempts to take their relationship into a more serious territory. Following an unpleasant evening at a close friend’s wedding, Megan stumbles upon a group of teenage wastrels, led by Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz). Via a set of semi-inevitable comedic contrivances, Megan finds herself looking for a place to stay, and eventually finds herself shacked up with Annika and her cheerfully hardline father (Sam Rockwell).
It’s not exactly a revolutionary bit of storytelling, and the pieces come together much as one would expect, but you don’t need to be revolutionary to make a good comedy, you just need to be funny. And the first hour or so of Laggies has a good set of laughs, with some wry observational humour and Knightley as an unexpected natural as the comedic lead. A couple of the gags fall flat, but the writing and performances are for the most part genuinely sound, managing to avoid the pitfalls that these type of comedies so often slip in to – namely, over-explaining the plot and over-egging the issues plaguing its characters.
While Knightley impresses, the script is pretty much all in a day’s work for the rest of the cast. Sam Rockwell has swiftly become one of the most charming screen presences in modern cinema, and as a result doesn’t have to push himself as a flawed but loveable Dad with nice hair. As a snippy teenager, Moretz is also very much in her comfort zone, but you get the sense that the both she and the rest of the ensemble are somewhat restrained by the likeable but unambitious screenplay. It’s when this tentative approach begins to outweigh any comedic merit that Laggies really starts to fall to pieces.
Megan is – when viewed in perspective – a pretty horrible person. She spends most of her time stalling on or making fun of other more down-to-earth people. That is, when she’s not buying kids alcohol and flirting with their dads. Plenty of comedies have mean-spirited centres though, and it doesn’t really become an issue until Laggies‘ final third, where the previously refreshing little comedy takes a turn for the unfortunately expected and the drearily unfunny.
The moment the frequency of gags start to wain, you come to realize that Megan has, in a few short days, left a wake of emotional destruction that will take years to heal, and leave at least a couple of the leading cast members in therapy. This realization of Megan’s demolition-like tendencies, combined with such a swift surrender to all things hackneyed, leaves Laggies petering out with a whimper when it should end with a belly laugh.
Laggies is two thirds of a genuinely enjoyable, likeable and funny little indie comedy that – while far from essential viewing – makes for perfectly pleasant watching. It’s just a shame the film’s final act whips away the comfily quirky in favour of the mawkish and the frankly dull. I could only watch in mild despair as the filmmakers took an incredibly lazy hatchet to something that was otherwise pretty promising. When it’s walking on air as a light and sparky little comedy-drama, Laggies rattles along in a nice, Friday-night-in kind of way. It’s just a shame that its final act brings it so unceremoniously plummeting back to earth.
Keira Knightley impresses, but Laggies' amiable charm is absolutely wrecked in a final third that's short on laughs and packed with clichés.