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by Peter Sobczynski

"Good Riddance Girl"
1 stars

Should you go out and see the new whimsically-inclined indie comedy-drama "Laggies?" Dear God, no--I would be willing to bet that it is arguably the worst film currently unspooling at your multiplex and I say that knowing full well that both "Ouija" and that nonsense with Nicole Kidman as the amnesia victim are both still in general release. However, instead of simply taking my word for it and moving on, what say we take a little quiz to see whether or not it is a film for you. Pretend for a moment that you are the parent of a 17-year-old girl and one night, you walk into her room and see that there is also a strange woman who is at least a decade older apparently crashing on her floor. Do you A.) remove the stranger from your house at once, perhaps putting in a call to the police as well, B.) briefly interrogate the interloper and then, after pondering the nonsensical response for a few moments, allow her to stay or C.) not only allow her to stay but find yourself inexplicably drawn to this total stranger despite the fact that she is an adult woman who is inexplicably hanging out with a high-schooler? If you answered A, then "Laggies" is not for you because you are still evidently in the throes of what one might call common sense. If B, the film probably is up your alley as you have presumably taking leave of most of your senses. If C, not only are you obviously insane enough to somehow relate to such nonsense, there is an excellent chance that you may have actually written and/or directed it as well because no one else could possibly be that crazy.

Needless to say, "Laggies" is a terrible, terrible film--I don't know if I would quite call it the worst film of 2014 but it is bad enough to deserve to be part of that conversation. I do know that if I had to choose between seeing it again or rewatching "Transformers 4," i would have to ponder that question for a while before responding. Here is a film so smug, cloying and enamored with its own outsized sense of its alleged quirkiness that Greta Gerwig herself might find it off-putting. Here is a film about a seemingly adorable young woman who is, in fact, so monstrous and malignant that Amy from "Gone Girl" could have taken notes from her. Here is a film that is so flat-out insane in virtually every regard that you don't want to review it--you want to prescribe it some medication and plenty of bed rest in the hopes that it will eventually recover from whatever maladies it is currently enduring and that the audience can then begin the long healing process as well.

Megan (Keira Knightley) is in her late twenties and, as the story opens, is in a moment of personal and professional flux. Having come to the belated realization that she is not cut out for the career in psychological counseling that she has been striving for (she admits to having zero empathy or interest in the problems of her clients), she now spends her days sitting on the couch watching television and occasionally holding signs on the street advertising the real estate business of her overly doting father (Jeff Garlin). At the same time, all of her high school friends are getting married or having babies while she is content to stay in the same holding pattern with longtime and long-suffering boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber). After attending a wedding where Anthony unexpectedly proposes to her and she catches her father in an indelicate position with someone other than her mom, she bolts the reception and not only winds up buying beer for a group of high schoolers led by Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz), she winds up hanging out with them for the night.

Needing to take a break from her exhausting state of stasis, Megan hits the road while pretending that she is going to be attending a week-long personal growth seminar but she has no sooner set off on her way than she receives a call from Annika--can she come to her school and pose as the mother who abandoned her and her dad, Craig (Sam Rockwell), years earlier for a parent-reacher conference? Somehow, this ruse works and as a return favor, Megan asks if she can spend the week at Annika's house--some excuse about her new place not being ready yet. Inexplicably, Annika agrees and sneaks her in after a party but she has hardly sacked out on Annika's floor when the two are busted by Craig. Inexplicably, after admitting that she is a decade older than Annika and more or less a stranger, he decides to let Megan stay, though my guess is that if Megan did not look like Keira Knightley, the conversations would have gone much differently. As the week goes on, Megan gets Annika and Craig to come out of their respective shells--even convincing the former to visit her long-lost mom (Gretchen Mol) and winding up in a compromising position or two with the latter--and they in turn force her to confront her own life and whether she would be happier back with Anthony or with Craig.

The premise of a self-absorbed person struggling to come to terms with adulthood maybe a decade or so later than normal is the kind of idea that lends itself to scathing satire, especially if it steadfastly refuses to give its central character an out for their colossal self-absorption and unwillingness to face reality. In fact, I can prove this because it has already been done and done brilliantly in "Young Adult," the 2009 collaboration between director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, their first teamup since "Juno," that remains one of the best movies of recent years that you most likely never saw and which contained one of the great performances in recent years in Charlize Theron's lacerating turn as the one-time high school queen who, ten years down the road, is still convinced that everything will be fine if she can just marry her old football star boyfriend and ride off into the sunset, conveniently ignoring the fact that he is married, has a newborn child and is perfectly happy with his current life. This was a dark and discomfiting comedy (presumably the chief reason why it failed at the box office) but it was one that spoke honest truths and which understood its main character's behavior without tacitly condoning it at the same time.

"Laggies," on the other hand, takes a similar premise but tried to transmogrify it into a goonily winsome comedy in which its heroine's monstrous self-absorption is meant to somehow be charming and the situations in which she finds herself in are supposed to touch both the funny bone and the heart. In every possible way, it misses the mark so tremendously that you may find yourself thinking that the whole thing is an incredibly straight-faced spoof of some sort. The fundamental premise is too ridiculous to believe and more than a little creepy if circumstances force you to think about it for a few minutes, the central character is a loathsome bore who is nowhere near as charming or sympathetic as she or the film seems to think that she is and the situations she is placed in are either unbelievable or unbelievably trite--what can you say about a film that essentially begins at a wedding and ends at prom? Worst of all, this is one of those narratives that can only sustain itself as long as all the characters act like idiots being jerked around by the extremely clumsy machinations of Andrea Seigel's screenplay and while watching people act like morons may be acceptable in certain circumstances (such as if one of the characters involved is named Shemp), this is not one of them. In essence, "Laggies" is like one of those slapped-together Adam Sandler goofs that inexplicably decided that it was smarter than it really was and set out to prove it with disastrous results.

The hell of it is that director Lynn Shelton (whose previous films have included such uneven but not uninteresting indies as "Humpday" and "Your Sister's Sister") has recruited a surprisingly good cast considering the flimsiness of the material and they go to enormous lengths in their doomed effort to make the monstrous material into something palatable. Keira Knightley, for example, gives it her all but even though her performance is technically okay, she can't make the screenplay work because she seems way too focused and together to be believable as a character who would behave in the ways that she is asked to behave. Likewise, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell are good as the teenager and the father who find themselves pulled into Megan's peculiar little orbit but again, these are smart and capable actors who come across as being far too bright to convince us that they would get involved with the shenanigans on display.

"Laggies" is a terrible movie--a film so arch and off-putting that Greta Gerwig herself might come away from a screening of it muttering "Gimme a break!" And yet, because this is a film that was written and directed by women and told from a largely female perspective, some might suggest that my outright loathing of it may be driven by some form of gender bias. (Don't laugh--I got that from some people when I meekly suggested that "Tammy" was exactly a comedic masterpiece for the ages.) Believe me, that is not the case. I have nothing against female filmmakers and in fact enjoy seeing films told from a point-of-view that differs from my own. However, I cannot imagine any self-respecting and intelligent woman who could possibly self-identify with any aspect of this film or who wouldn't be wildly insulted even at the suggestion that they might. No, "Laggies" is not a film for them. This is a film whose target audience is pretty much limited to dullards, Keira Knightley completists and anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like if someone took the worst-ever episode of "New Girl" and stretched it out to two interminable hours. If you fall into one of these groups, you may wind up enjoying "Laggies" but believe me, you have far more pressing problems than that to deal with.

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originally posted: 11/07/14 13:53:31
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2014 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 San Diego Film Festival For more in the 2014 San Diego Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/18/14 Elizabeth Disappointing, considering I'm a big fan of Knightley and Rockwell. 2 stars
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  24-Oct-2014 (R)
  DVD: 10-Feb-2015


  DVD: 10-Feb-2015

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