“Suck it up, go with your gut.” That’s the advice Seattle late twentysomething Megan (Keira Knightley) gives to adolescent Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) at the end of Lynn Shelton’s most commercial movie yet, Laggies. Shelton herself has followed that mantra, pioneering a successful indie career by going with her gut. She’s a generous filmmaker, giving female characters dimension and detail without sacrificing the crispness of her men.
Shelton has created a cottage industry in Seattle making films that are cool, contemporary, and just a little bit angsty without being all tattooed-edgy. I loved the sibling issues raised, and the actresses engaged — Rosemarie DeWitt and Emily Blunt — in the prickly yet tender comedy Your Sister’s Sister. I sighed during the uneven masseuse dramedy Touchy Feely, also starring DeWitt, a yeasty bread that refused to rise. Everyone makes mistakes, though women directors often don’t get a second chance.
But Shelton, who directs both TV (the upcoming Fresh Off the Boat) and has three film scripts in development, sucked it up, undeterred. And along came the Sundance hit Laggies, slang for folks that are lagging behind but don’t have the true philosophical entropy of slackers. It’s a more temporary condition.
The comedy, which Shelton directed from Andrea Seigel’s sexy, sweet-natured screenplay, opens briskly. Megan escapes a claustrophobic wedding reception in which her sympathetic beau (Mark Webber) has just tried to kneel down and propose. He’s doing the right thing, but Megan instinctually recoils: How can it feel so wrong? Is that all there is, my friend? What happened to flat-out fun on the modern woman’s rush to career, love, marriage, and a baby carriage?