Having a midlife crisis is so 1983.
In the new millennium, where everything is faster, more efficient and more compressed, no one should be forced to wait until they're fortysomething to start fretting over what it's all really about. No, these days, those of a certain angst-'n'-ennui-riddled temperament are free to commence drifting into emotional paralysis and unhealthy choices much earlier. The quarter-life crisis, it's called, an existential malaise that can set in before someone in his or her 20s really gets anything figured out at all.
And that's exactly where we find Megan Burch, a 28-year-old poster child for the phrase "failure to launch."
Megan actually has a master's degree in marriage and family counseling. But she struggled to relate to anyone she was counseling, so she quit. Now she twirls an arrow-shaped sign ("Tax Advisor") in front of her father's Seattle (where else?) CPA firm. She's living with her boyfriend, Anthony, a small-time photographer whose grandiose dreams exceed his modest talents. Meanwhile, Megan's three best friends from high school are getting married and having babies.
In other words, becoming honest-to-goodness grown-ups.
Megan? Not so much.
She blows off her boyfriend's marriage proposal. She buys some kids some beer. And just like that, she's regressed into teenagedom, even hanging out with Annika, the 16-year-old she got those suds for—then crashing on the girl's bedroom floor and crushing on her dad.
Megan makes a lot of self-centered choices in Laggies, but she does have something of an aha! moment near the film's end. On the run from her fiancé (they do eventually go through with the engagement and plan to elope), she realizes that she struggles to make decisions because she's typically waited for someone else to do it for her instead of being honest about what she really wants. (How she applies that revelation is another story altogether, though.)
There are also moments when instead of just playing the role of wild older sister, Megan "mothers" Annika, helping the younger girl process her emotions and hurts. And chief among those hurts is the deep wound caused by Annika's mother abandoning her husband and daughter. Watching Annika deal with that, we learn quite a lot about how damaging such a situation is. The fact that Annika can't just "forget about" her mother, like the woman thinks she will, illustrates just how important parents are. Elsewhere, the film repeatedly emphasizes how divorce negatively impacts whole families.
Megan's father, meanwhile, admits to her that he's made a grave mistake by cheating on her mother, and that they're trying to work through and past it. He communicates to Megan that marriage is hard, that it takes work, but that even wretched wrongs can be dealt with if both partners are willing to try.
Annika's father clearly loves her and is well-intentioned in trying to set limits and keep lines of communication open (even if some of his decisions come down on the more lenient side of things).
At a restaurant, Megan tweaks the nipples of a large Buddha statue. That prompts a sharp rebuke from a friend who says, "Buddha is sacred to a lot of people." Megan sarcastically asks when she converted to Buddhism. There's talk of fortune cookies.
Megan says monks and priests have it easy because their calling comes from God.
Megan catches her father (pretty seriously) making out with "the other woman" at a wedding reception. Later, Megan crudely details what she saw.
Megan and Annika's father, Craig, end up getting sexually involved. We see them kiss passionately and press against each other, and him (still clothed) crawling on top of her. Annika is both shocked and angered when she (a) sees her dad and Megan kissing and (b) learns that Megan is involved so seriously with someone else. After her affair with Craig, Megan tells her father, "I f---ed up, so I'm in no position to judge you."
High school guys and girls are shown undressing before skinny-dipping. (Movements and bodies are cloaked in dark shadows as we see garments fall to the ground.) Women (adult and teen) wear cleavage-baring outfits. A teen girl is shown in her bra at a party. We see catalog images of Annika's mom modeling lingerie. The woman gives her daughter a bunch of lacy lingerie, and Annika briefly puts one item on her head.
While on the phone with a teacher, one of Annika's friends says she's wearing "a little T-shirt and crotchless panties." At a bachelorette party, Megan and her friends wear illuminated penis and testicle pendants. A party game involves the women coming up with lewd captions for a cartoon that shows a mailman walking in on a couple in bed.
An argument distracts a teen guy while he's driving, and he runs into a row of mailboxes.
Crude or Profane Language
About 40 f- and s-words, the tally split right down the middle. There are close to that same number of misuses of God's name. Jesus' name is abuse once or twice. "A--" and "p---" are used a few times. "C--k" is said once, and there are a half-dozen other slang references to the male anatomy. Someone's called a "scumbag." We see an obscene hand gesture.
Drug and Alcohol Content
At their high school prom, Megan and her friends are shown with a big marijuana joint. We see two parties Annika and her friends attend; almost everyone is drinking. One teen is shown passed out.
Megan buys alcohol for the underage Annika and her friends (including, we hear, wine, wine coolers and beer), and several scenes show them drinking. After one guy has a minor fender bender, he confesses that he had been drinking the wine Megan bought him. Megan takes the fall for him when the police show up, but it turns out she's intoxicated too. (She's arrested for drunk driving.)
Megan and Craig get drunk on bourbon shots at a bar. The next morning, Craig suggests gin to help with their hangovers. Megan waters down her father's box of wine in the fridge so she can drink some without him wondering where it went.
Passing reference is made to the date-rape drug roofies.
Other Negative Elements
Megan's realization that she needs to be honest about what she wants is linked to her decision to end her relationship with Anthony. The film wants us to see this choice as a good thing, an example of her being true to herself. However, the fact that the couple has been together for 10 years and living together for most of that time makes Megan's leaving tantamount to divorce, the same damaging dissolution the film critiques sharply elsewhere.
Megan and her younger cohorts lie, deceive and behave quite recklessly, sometimes illegally, often with little negative result. Two examples: Megan and Co. break into a swimming pool to go skinny-dipping; Annika and Co. drink booze in a public park. A house gets TP'd (and we hear a window break). A dirty joke involves a toilet plunger and a "butt crack."
What does it mean to grow up?
Laggies' answer to that age-old question is something like this: Growing up means finding the courage to follow your deepest dreams and desires.
That kind of counsel isn't far afield from the message Disney has been delivering to kids for years, actually. Laggies differs only in its R-rated application, serving up a big dose of romanticized narcissism.
In Megan's story, "growing up" means leaving her boyfriend/fiancé of 10 years after she meets a new guy (Annika's father) whom she quite likes after a night of drunken sex. Framing it that way, it becomes more obvious that pursuing what you really want right now might not in fact be what's best for the long run. And it might not have anything at all to do with actually growing up.
Laggies does show us how important intact families are, and how devastating divorce is. It's obvious here that when parents make really selfish choices, their kids suffer terribly.
Even as it makes that statement, however, the movie does a philosophical 180 in justifying exactly the same kind of selfishness in Megan as she abandons Anthony after 10 years—all in the name of being honest and following her heart.
I'm pretty sure there's a lot more to being grown up than casually trashing the deepest commitments we've made thus far in life—a lesson Megan's philandering-but-repentant father has learned but she still hasn't.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Keira Knightley as Megan Burch; Chloë Grace Moretz as Annika; Sam Rockwell as Craig; Mark Webber as Anthony; Ellie Kemper as Allison; Jeff Garlin as Ed Burch; Gretchen Mol as Bethany
Lynn Shelton ( )
October 24, 2014
February 10, 2015