Another Film Asking “Will Keira Knightley Ever Grow Up?”

Director: LYNN SHELTON/2014

Keira Knightley just doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up.  This has been a reoccurring theme for her throughout many of her films.  In Pirates of the Caribbean, she doesn’t want to marry Commodore James Norrington and be respectable.  She’d rather marry pirate scalawag Will Turner and have adventure. In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, her boyfriend just won’t do.  She needs to leave him, drive around with Steve Carell, and listen to vinyl records, while still looking for her identity despite the pending doom waiting at their metaphorical doorstep.  In Begin Again, she is Gretta who has allowed herself to follow her boyfriend’s dreams and who has never really figured out what she wanted to do.  And now in Laggies, we find her again on the cusp of marriage realizing that her life isn’t where she imagined it and now would be the perfect time for self-discovery.

Much of her career has been a long train of depicting varying degrees of relationship situations where she is either: a. with the wrong guy and needs to escape, b. is with the right guy but someone else wants her, or c. she is with the right guy and for some reason they can’t be together.  For further reference, check out Pride & PrejudiceAtonementLove Actually, etc.

In Laggies, it is more about choice “c”.  She has the right guy, but maybe they shouldn’t be together. As Megan, Keira Knightley has been with the same guy for the last 10 years since high school.  Anthony (Mark Webber-Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Megan have always been a couple and therefore the most secure couple amongst their high school friends.  Living together, they are now just a comfort to each other, but there doesn’t seem to be anything new that excites them.  Anthony is driven in his career, but Megan is still floating in and out of low-level and low-paying jobs.  Mostly she twirls a business sign for her dad’s company.  This is despite having a master’s degree.

Sometimes you just aren’t sure what you want to do when you grow up.  But society has a way of making sure you choose something….especially if you’re almost 30!  Her friends are growing up and accepting responsibilities that are expected at this stage of life.  They are working on their careers.  They are dating and planning their weddings.  They are talking about kids, and houses, and all of the domestic responsibilities that come with “growing up”.  Megan just doesn’t understand why they can’t still have fun and act like they’re 19 when they’re 29. They’re responses to her childish ways is very telling.

Megan eventually runs into Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz-Hugo, Kick-Ass), a young teen looking for an adult to buy her, and her friends, some beer.  What she gets is a side-kick as Megan looks for a way to just get away and get back to being young and carefree.  Telling Anthony that she’s going to a self-help seminar, Megan has a week to crash at Annika’s, who lives with her father Craig (Sam Rockwell-The Way Way Back, Iron Man 2), and figure her life out.

The interplay between Megan, 29, and her teenaged friend Annika, aged 15, is quite interesting as both Chloë Grace Moretz and Keira Knightley play off one another very well.  As Megan, Keira is able to be a believable mentally underaged adult and blend right in with Annika’s teenaged peers through skateboarding, drinking, shopping for prom, and participating in various sophmore-ish pranks around the neighborhood. She is also able to convey the feeling that she understands that this isn’t who she truly is.  The fact is that we do grow up.  We look at our circumstances and realize that we can try to act the same as we once were, sometimes to great success. But it is very hard to go back to being that person again because our experiences shape the way we might view the same situations if experienced again.  Being a teenager and doing those sorts of things is great.  It’s not so great when you’re nearly 30.

Annika is from a divorced home and is grown-up in many ways that Megan is not, however, she is experiencing life for the first time and she approaches things in a much more simple way than Megan. A scene that demonstrates this notion of looking at things differently is when Annika asks Megan to pose as her mom for a counselor conference at school.  Megan tries to pretend that she is a part of a prank and is willing to help out her friend, but as the meeting progresses, she begins to take more of a parental responsibility over Annika that is more appropriate to her age than how she has been trying to act when trying to be her peer.

This is further compounded as she begins to hang out with Annika’s father, Craig who might be the kind of guy she has been looking for.  Sam Rockwell is in much the same mode he was in for The Way Way Back but does not get the opportunity to shine as much as he did being the childish mentor inThe Way Way Back.  His humor is still very much intact and he again steals each scene he is in, however, it felt as if the character was phoned in a bit from last summer’s performance.

Laggies is a charming, and decent enough romantic comedy, but it sticks too close to formula, and it is easy to spot where it is going from the very beginning.  This takes away from some of the plot twists and situations Megan finds herself in while hanging out with these crazy teens.  The inevitable decisions she is going to have to make when she returns home from her fake seminar are equally transparent.

So with a good cast, and a pretty bland, and transparent script, Laggies tries to finally help Keira Knightley decide what she wants to do when she grows up.  The unfortunate thing is that its just more of the same old thing she has always done: try to figure out what she wants to do when she grows up.  This endless cycle is maybe why she is “lagging” behind, and why Laggies probably won’t make much of a splash at the weekend box office.

If we have learned anything from Matthew McConaughey’s career, it is that you can grow up and escape the endless cycle of romantic comedies and begin to challenge yourself to find new roles that push you further.  Knightley is needing to do that as well, professionally.  Let’s hope that all of these roles of assessing one’s place in life might actually allow her to push herself to do something new and unexpected. It just won’t be happening in this film.