Now That’s What I Call Quite Good: Laggies (aka Say When)

laggies indexLynn Shelton gives us the answer why Keira Knightley hasn’t had a chance to play an American all these years

Does Clive Owen prefer to sound like someone who talks similarly to him? I still don’t know the answer to that. Could it be because like, Emilly Mortimer, not doing so (like in The Newsroom) could be a hindrance to an actor’s best performance? What I do get, is the answer to the question of Keira Knightley being able to pull off sounding like someone who is significantly defined by Seattle. Also, because Clive does not appear in this film at all.

There would been a time in my life that I would have preferred those intense performances like what she has done with Cecilia Tallis in ‘Atonement’ (I haven’t found a reason to rewatch the film since my first viewing) and after performances like the one she has given us in ‘Laggies’, I found myself looking forward to more comedic work. I previously saw ‘Begin Again’ (which was released a year before) and really enjoyed it. Somehow though, even if she has strong chemistry with both Sam Rockwell and Mark Ruffalo, this film somehow gives her more room to display her comic ability.

Here’s the setup: On the surface Megan (Keira Knightley) has the kind of life that anyone would love but rethinks it when a proposal is imminent. Is this the person she would like to spend the rest of her life with? The running becomes easier when she finds out her dad, Ed (Jeff Garlin), is having an affair. So she runs and crosses paths with Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teen asking a favour. Since someone has granted the same thing (purchasing alcohol) to Megan when she was a teen, she doesn’t have any issue to do the same for the stranger.

The film basically plays like a Romantic Comedy, as the protagonist has two options — the other being Annika’s dad Craig (Sam Rockwell). What makes it different to the bulk of the films in that genre is the time taken to tighten up the dialogue. I didn’t feel there was any unnecessary exposition. One good example is when Anthony tells Megan about the personality test he went through while at the conference. We don’t get to hear the process or even what he got (just that he procrastinates). It’s only until he bids farewell to Megan after she decides to attend the conference that we find out that he’s a ‘shark’ (I’m not sure if there’s a joke somewhere…but I usually don’t think of sharks as procrastinators…or fish in general).

It isn’t clear why Megan struggles to find a way to move forward, and I believe it’s because the people around her aim to mould her to the person they expect her to be. The earliest sign is during Allison’s (Ellie Kemper) bachelorette get-together: Megan is herself relaxing and she gets told-off twice. Think about those times when you were around people who have a drastically different humour blueprint than you. Remember how miserable you were?

Comedic moments:

  • Megan getting a couple of epiphanies as she plays the role of Annika’s mother

  • Craig questioning Megan after finding out that she’s been hanging out with Annika

  • Megan getting the turtle to eat

  • Misty convincing Anthony that she was also a conference attendee

  • An alternate blurb of the film as the last lines (I’m tempted to link to a gif but I think you’ll thank me that I didn’t)

With casting, the only person I wasn’t sure of was Mark Webber, who plays Anthony. The lack of chemistry could be the reason they picked Mark as Anthony’s relationship with Megan has run its course. When Megan is torn whether to pursue her life with Anthony, I couldn’t find a reason for her to. Its the sort of union that seems stagnant (though Anthony has discovered a self-help conference that suits him). Oddly, there is a view that Keira carried the whole thing. Really!? Even Sam Rockwell is phoning it in?

I’m just thankful that this view wasn’t shared by those involved with the film (and they ended up casting other actors for supporting roles), or I’ll probably run out of things to watch. The film’s VIP goes to Kaitlyn Dever who plays Misty. It’s going to be no surprise if we end up seeing more of her on screen. I won’t compare her to younger Keira in ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ as it’s not fair to either. What I would say is that Kaitlyn has a screen presence that a lot of actors would love to have. I first came across her in ‘Outside In’ (another Lynn Shelton film) then later in ‘Short Term 12’. Misty isn’t as tortured as the characters she plays in those films, and it just proves that Kaitlyn would have no issue jumping from genre to genre.

Though I don’t see myself as an attendee of conferences like Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit (if I can avoid travelling…I will), there are definitely those that have the capacity to change lives. Be it a person’s direction or just finding the right circle of people to spend time with. Which is why conferences like WDS are so popular: more people who have similar values and goals concentrated in a specific area making it much easier for attendees to filter the best from the bunch.

One thing I’ve noticed with films that I struggle to get through (provided it has all the ingredients for my kind of story) is that it hasn’t decided what it wants to be or what it wants to say. This film doesn’t have that problem and clearly sets up paths for Megan to come to the realisation to ‘level up’ in life. Sometimes that means taking a step back, or maybe a detour. Even just stepping in as Annika’s mother Andrea Seigel’s script gives our protagonist an opportunity to consider her situation and glimpse possible ways forward (like finding out the kind of counselling that she might be keen to pursue).

So, I’m quite dismayed when there are those who compare Megan’s arc to characters that have been a mainstay in Adam Sandler’s filmography. This is why sometimes taking some time off before a new chapter of your life starts (like gap years) is something that helps us face new challenges better.

Another reason I’d be keen to visit a parallel world: to find out how the version with Anne Hathaway might be better (or worse). But I won’t even try to imagine it. Things happen for a reason, and that includes roles being offered and turned down. This makes me wonder though…did Sam say yes after Keira did? Or was he already slated to be partnered with Hathaway? Ah…more questions I might never know the answers to.

What happens next? Fill in one of those Netflix’s ‘request titles’ thingies and give it a good ‘ole 10-minute-go once it’s available in your region.

Leigh Lim.
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