In lesser hands, “Laggies” would have been little more than an after-school special about the uncertainties high-schoolers have about their future, emotional connections and family. That perspective is offered through Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz), a confused teen living with her divorced father, Craig (Sam Rockwell).
Annika’s youthful uncertainties get complicated when a person from the When Gen — those who have graduated since the economy went in the toilet and are waiting for their promised success — comes into her life. Megan (Keira Knightley) is a twenty-something who panics when her longtime boyfriend finally asks her to get married.
Annika and Megan meet and become instant friends, despite the gap in their ages: Annika is dealing with serious mommy issues, while Megan is in search of her lost youth. Megan lives with Annika while she tries to figure out where her life is going.
At times the friendship comes across as forced and a little creepy, but it’s the acting strength of Moretz and Knightley that helps slowly melt the awkwardness of the age gap and lets the story settle into a sweet and moving tale of personal discovery.
As good as Moretz and Knightley are, it isn’t until Rockwell shows up that the movie is shaken from its emotional doldrums and takes on a new energy. Rockwell manages to make Craig a caring, challenged father.
Rockwell turns on the same goofy charm that made him so compelling to watch in “The Way Way Back.” He’s been known to take roles to the extreme, but in this case he shows great self-control.
Director Lynn Shelton uses these three strong performers to elevate Andrea Seigel’s script from a quirky romantic comedy to an examination of how people look for signs to direct them through life but often don’t see them when they appear. The light comedy accents more than drives the story.
Without this talented cast, “Laggies” (one of the worst names for a movie in the history of cinema), would have not had as much emotional focus. The actors never stumble over all of the delicate intricacies.
The film’s biggest weakness comes from all the innocent people who become collateral damage in the emotional blowups. They aren’t completely deserving of the pain they feel just because the movie’s central players find their way to happiness. But when dealing with emotional turmoil, there are casualties.
“Laggies” never gets overly deep in its examination of generational and parental frustrations. It’s the dependable Moretz, Knightley and Rockwell who get the most out of the script and make this production work.