Director Lynn Shelton has always been interested in flawed people, never content to settle for easy answers, constantly inviting drama into the lives of her emotionally stunted characters in all of her low-key and under the radar gems. Her latest film, the oddly charming Laggies with the peppy and wonderfully photogenic Keira Knightley, explores the familiar themes of late 20-something mental angst and life confusion and does so with sad humor and easy going style. And while it’s the first film that Shelton didn’t write (the perceptive script is by Andrea Seigel), all of her trademarks remain in clear focus, with equal attention paid to drama and comedy. Knightley is Megan, a directionless, sometimes unlikable woman who has just been proposed too (Mark Webber does a good job as her put-upon boyfriend) but isn’t sure of where her life is going or what direction she wants to take it in. She randomly meets Annika (Chloe Graze Moretz, on a roll), a teenager trying to score some beer for her friends outside of a grocery store, and feels compelled to help them out with their illicit purchase. She then develops an odd friendship with Annika, Annika’s friends, and Annika’s recently divorced father, a reliably awesome and perfectly sarcastic Sam Rockwell. What will Megan do with her life? How will her increasingly selfish decisions affect those around her? Knightley is fantastic here, displaying a varying range of emotions throughout the up and down narrative, nailing her “big” moments with ease and showing off that high-wattage smile on more than one occasion. She’s so perfect and at home in period costumes dramas that it’s always a refreshing change of pace to see her in modern films (Seeking A Friend for the End of the World is another favorite), and I rarely can remember her appearing this freewheeling on screen. And honestly, at this point, I could watch master scene stealer Rockwell read the phone book; this guy is always killer in every film and as soon as he shows up in Laggies, everything gets kicked up a notch. His dry line delivery is always on the money, and the chemistry he develops with Knightley is palpable. Shelton seems drawn to characters in turmoil, and it’s clear that she loves awkward humor and those squirm-inducing moments of human behavior that just seem a tad “off” for the situation. A pioneer of the low-budget, semi-improvised character based dramedy starring a group of self-effacing performers, Shelton is getting closer and closer to having her BIG breakout film in terms of large mainstream success, and I love her effortless ability of taking a simple premise, injecting it with dramatic purpose and heft, while still being able to deliver the funny in a sensible, never over the top fashion. This is a quirky, small movie made to feel “big” because of the acting talent, and while it was more downbeat overall than I expected, Shelton reliably brings her sharp sense of witty humor to the proceedings which provides numerous moments of character based hilarity. This is yet another notable title from edgy distributor A24 and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Shelton.


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