"This is the first film I made -- and I've made six now -- that I didn't write myself so it was a big leap for me personally and I'm really glad that I did," director Lynn Shelton said at the world premiere of "Laggies" last night, and audiences and critics alike are already really glad too.
By far Shelton's most mainstream film (and this is by no means a criticism), "Laggies" follows Megan, a 28-year-old woman (Keira Knightley) who is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with a boyfriend and group of friends she's had since high school. When said boyfriend proposes, she jolts, randomly meeting 16-year-old Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) when Annika and her friends ask Megan to buy them alcohol outside a grocery store. Megan decides that somehow the best thing for her to do while she tries to figure out how to proceed with her life is hide out at Annika's house, befriending both Annika's friends and dad (Sam Rockwell) in the process.
The script, by first-timer Andrea Seigel, offers a charmingly strange take on a cusp-of-adulthood story that could have easily turned into a mess had she teamed up with a director that was not capable of capturing a very specific tone that makes the film work so well in the end. But Shelton is more than game to take Seigel's blueprint and turn it into something quite special. As mainstream as it is in a way (certainly compared to Shelton's previous works), "Laggies" also offers transgressive and accessible ideas on inter-generational friendships as well as on women and the societal conventions that are handed to them as teenagers.
"I guess in my own life I have a hesitancy about institutions and just feeling very uncomfortable when you're supposed to grow up in a certain way according to steps," Seigel said at the film's Q&A last night. "So it was just really coming out of that, and feeling in my own life that there was a time when I was a teenager where things seemed more dramatic and more heightened and how incredibly luxurious and great that was. You really miss it when you become an adult."
Not all the credit should be handed to Shelton and Siegel. Knightley, Moretz and Rockwell each offer truly delightful performances that are also very much in tune with the necessary tone. When asked by an audience member how they created the chemistry together, Knightley offered an answer as charming as her performance.
"There actually wasn't any chemistry, we really hated each other. So it's just really, really good acting. No, we sort of bullied each other from the beginning. That was pretty much it. Lynn took [Chloe and I] out to dinner and we had girly chats about life and stuff. She basically told me about life, and I listened. And what else? We just got drunk, really."
It sure seemed to work out well for everyone. Shelton couldn't help but gush over blending her crew from her previous films with a cast that is arguably her most A-list to date.
"What I really like is to create an environment on set that's fun for everybody," Shelton said. "And where everybody feels good and emotionally safe so they can do their best work because they feel on intimate terms. We had this crew that I'd worked with on many of my movies and we were able to shoot this in Seattle which is where I live and love to work. So that was really great to be able to bring a higher budget project to the same family and crew I've always worked with and seeing what they could do with more money. And we really lucked out because the actors were just as lovely and delightful and sweet as the crew. Which I didn't think was possible."