There is nothing more dangerous than a beautiful girl who doesn’t know what she wants. Now playing in select theaters, film festival darling Laggies is about one such young woman, Megan (Keira Knightley), who wistfully dubs this phenomenon “floating.”
Megan’s past immobilizes her present. She lives with her high school sweetheart, hangs with her high school friends and relies on her parents, namely her father, for all kinds of support. She (sort of) works twirling one of those big arrow signs, advertising her dad’s business, on a corner. It’s depressing, but there are definitely worse things women can solicit on a corner. And so Megan floats along, unable to make any real decisions about the future.
Although she says it with a degree of profound gravitas (in a jarring American accent, I might add), this “floating” situation is commonplace and therefore relatable enough. Life is boring, and people are fucked up. They sometimes go through the motions dispassionately and without a clear sense of purpose.
Laggies reiterates the age-old adage that if you want to have an existential crisis and totally lose your shit, be a pretty girl.
This is no big secret, and Laggies only manages to make things interesting insofar as Knightley is very pretty. She isn’t the first to pull this move—think Natalie Portman in Garden State, Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the list goes on—and surely won’t be the last. I believe they call this archetype the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”? But who really cares about labels… America loves her.
It probably doesn’t hurt that these movies have a way of playing their trick down: Portman’s helmet, Winslet’s crazy blue hair, Hepburn’s weird bangs and, in this case, Knightley’s generally disheveled appearance—not a lot of makeup, hair awkwardly in-between short and long, total clusterfuck.
And yet, somehow, being pretty guarantees that the leading lady will get to do weird shit (have sleepovers with a high schooler), be categorically selfish (cheat on her fiancé) and make rather destructive decisions (often intoxicated). Of course, everything is forgivable and even charming because, again, this girl is irregularly pretty.
Megan is much cuter than her boring friends and her boring boyfriend, and so her disappointment in a boring life is more acute. The drama is built into the contrast of an irregular beauty living a regular life. (How unfair, right??)
And so—because she can— Megan flies off the handle after her friend gets married, her boyfriend proposes and her dad cheats on her mom. The latter occurrence really just serves as the impetus for her to find her true calling another man, one who hasn’t pissed her off yet, to support her. (Pretty girls don’t need real jobs.) And that’s where young Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) comes in.
Annika is another pretty girl who plays her role with the earnest depth of feeling grown-ups are really interested in because they have long since forgotten what it is to really feel. She represents some past self with which Megan identifies (Annika asks Megan to buy her beer—a rite of passage Megan was once on the other side of) and serves as a sort of compass back to the person Megan wanted to be…
I’m not really sure who this person is, though, because I got distracted by Annika’s DILF dad. And although Craig (Sam Rockwell) pretty much derails Megan’s whole journey of self-discovery, he does promise sex, because everyone knows two attractive people in a movie will almost certainly fuck (also true in real life) and then fall in love (not so true in real life).
Craig is so lonely/desperate, he’s willing to let a total stranger stay at his house and hang out with his adolescent daughter. This choice is acceptable enough because, again, Megan is a pretty girl—and serial killers are normally not. Craig also has a real job, a house, a kid and all the other trappings of a man with a ready-made life. Problem solved. Megan has literally found another father who can take care of her.
While meandering in its genre’s formula, Laggies does manage to capture some of the nuances of a generation floundering in emerging adulthood and indulged by parents who really are happy to hear from them, even if it’s from jail. A selfie, after all, spurs the moment of true introspection.
More pointedly though, Laggies reiterates the age-old adage that if you want to have an existential crisis and totally lose your shit, be a pretty girl. Boys—don’t you even think about it. Need I remind you of Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, Edward Norton in Fight Club and Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild?
But hey, it’s always fun to watch someone more attractive than you be way more messed up than you, and what’s more, for everything to still work out peachy in the end. It’s actually a pretty entertaining ride that ends on the comforting, “It’ll all be OK” note that America generally appreciates. And they say religion is the opiate of the masses.