Hero Takes A Fall

Richard Jewell

by George Wolf

Richard Jewell is a film Clint Eastwood has reportedly been trying to direct for years, and no wonder. It’s the story of a heroic man forced to fight against bureaucrats and parasites who question his heroism, which seems to be Clint’s favored genre.

Jewell, of course, was a hero at the Centennial Park bombing during the Atlanta olympics in 1996. A security guard who first spotted the bomb and was helping clear the scene when it exploded, Jewell was later named as the FBI’s prime suspect, and had his life turned upside down for months until the feds gave up.

It’s a pretty clear case of a man wronged, and a compelling story clearly worthy of a film. But while Eastwood and writer Billy Ray tell much of it well, their zeal for painting broad-stroked villains is hard to overcome.

After years of standout supporting roles (I, Tonya, Black KkKlansman) Paul Walter Hauser takes the lead as Jewell and grounds the film with a terrific and often touching performance. As suspicion around Jewell grows, the bonds created with his lawyer and his mother (Sam Rockwell and Kathy Bates, both great) show Eastwood and Ray at their nuanced best.

The law and the press don’t get off so easy. That’s not to say they should get a pass, far from it, but Atlanta Journal reporter Kathy Scruggs is drawn so one dimensionally, Olivia Wilde might as well be twirling a mustache every time she’s onscreen.

The Journal is currently threatening legal action over the depiction of Scruggs (now deceased, as is Jewell) trading sexual favors to an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) for info, but the film’s slut-shaming isn’t reserved for just one reporter. They’re all whores.

And in case you miss the strategically placed sticker in the lawyer’s office that reads “I fear the government more than I fear terrorism,” Eastwood returns to it more than once. That’s grandstanding, not character development, and ends up undercutting a layer we could have gotten so much more intimately solely through Rockwell’s performance.

Richard Jewell‘s story is a good one, a tragic one, and a cautionary tale that deserves telling. And the film it deserves – the one where a common man finds the will to fight for his dignity – is in here, you just have to wade through some blanket scapegoating to find it.

Necessary Evils

The Best of Enemies

by George Wolf

At the risk of opening recent wounds, it’s hard not to view The Best of Enemies through the lens of last year’s Oscar race debate. It’s a based-on-true-events historical drama draped in racial healing and also, the KKK.

So, is this more BlackKkKlansman, then? Or Green Book?

While it’s nowhere near the rarified air of the former, it does a better job than the latter of veering from the white pandering playbook.

For his debut feature, writer/director Robin Bissell adapts the tale of an unlikely friendship between a black community leader and the president of the local Klan chapter. Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) were on vastly opposing sides over school segregation in 1971 North Carolina when an arbitration exercise called a charrette forced them to hear each other out.

So you know where it’s going, but too often the trick is getting to that moment of average white awakening without making it the black character’s reward for being exceptional, or the white audience’s reward for being in the theater. Yes, Ellis has the biggest character arc, but Atwater changes, too, and thankfully isn’t here just to help him grow.

So Bissell is wise to put Atwater and Ellis on nearly equal footing, and fortunate to have leads this good. Henson mines powerful emotions as the defiant “Roughhouse Annie,” while Rockwell refuses to make Ellis a caricature villain. Together they find a combative chemistry that is raw and often effectively human.

Bissell is clearly a student of the Scorsese School of Pop Song Insertion, and an early sequence set to Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” is indeed striking. But while the film’s overall structure is workmanlike, a few clunky, pause-for-dramatic-effect moments seem to exist more from indecision than confidence.

The Best of Enemies tells a good story and does plenty right while doing it, but is held back by missed opportunities.

As both factions in a divided community state their cases, the arguments are shockingly current, but Bissell can’t find the tone that clearly connects this past to our present. Just when he’s close (like the rundown of different challenges the black parents faced), some Mayberry-esque comedy re-sets the mood, leaving a worthy but not quite memorable history lesson on the value of reaching across the battle lines.

 

 





Trickier Dick

Vice

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Remember when the Vice President of the United States shot some guy in the face, and then the guy with the snoot full of buckshot apologized to the V.P. for all the trouble? That really happened!

When did the upper reaches of the Executive Branch go so brazenly corrupt, so treasonously, moronically, dumpster-fire-with-a-spray-tan wrong?

It’s not as recent as you think.

With Vice, writer/director Adam McKay remembers a time long before moronic presidential tweet storms, when the quiet, steady rise of a ruthless power broker rewrote American politics and changed the course of history.

V.P. Dick Cheney was often thought of as the de facto decision-maker in George W. Bush’s presidency, and McKay uses absurdist humor and a spellbinding cast to give that line of thinking a more weighty focus.

Christian Bale is characteristically flawless as Cheney. With added girth from (according to Bale) “eating pies” and the trademark Burgess-Meredith -as-the-Penguin speech pattern, the physical transformation alone is astounding. But it is the way Cheney’s cut throat ambition, scorched-earth power grabs and soulless devotion to ideology contrasted with his familial tenderness that Bale articulates so astutely.

Because of, or perhaps in spite of, his legacy, Cheney is a fascinating figure, and Bale makes that fact endlessly resonate.

But fittingly, Vice‘s secret weapon is Amy Adams as Cheney’s wife Lynne who commands the screen as equally as Bale. In a performance full of subtle power of ferocity, Adams casts Mrs. Cheney as a pivotal and equally ambitious partner in Cheney’s climb, publicly lessening his weakness as a politician and privately demanding his allegiance to their plan.

Bale and Adams anchor an utterly glorious ensemble (including Sam Rockwell as “W” and Steve Carrell as a dead ringer for Donald Rumsfeld) that—with the help of McKay’s blistering script and wise direction—utilizes comedy to inform, illustrate, and act as an outlet for the otherwise soul-blackening disgust one might carry around with them concerning the American political system.

In 2015, after a slew of directorial successes including Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, McKay redefined the term “filmmaker Adam McKay” with the blistering, cynical, hilarious, informative and angry The Big Short.

In an act of all out heroism or masochism, McKay did all he could to help us understand the housing collapse with that film. He so understood his material (dry) and his audience (confused/disinterested) that he would cut away periodically to let a bubble-bath-soaking Margot Robbie explain a bit of vocabulary.

It was perhaps his way of saying: This is really important, guys. Pay attention!

Turns out, McKay is just as pissed off about the polluting of American politics, with his conspicuous outrage and biting comic sensibilities again proving to be powerful fuel.

From the film’s false ending and sudden Shakespearean detour to the unapologetic face-shooting, Vice has a definite “can you believe this shit?” air about it, a nod to the need to laugh so you won’t start crying.

Thanks to McKay and his tremendous cast, you might just do both.





Fright Club: Oscar Nominee Skeletons in the Closet

You know what? This year’s batch of Oscar hopefuls have made some genuinely excellent horror movies. Richard Jenkins starred in not only the amazing Bone Tomahawk, but also the underseen Fright Club favorite Let Me In. Willem Dafoe took a beating in the amazing Antichrist and grabbed an Oscar nomination for his glorious turn in Shadow of the Vampire. Laurie Metcalf made us laugh and squirm in Scream 2 and Woody Harrelson led one of our all time favorite zombie shoot-em-ups, Zombieland.

But what’s the fun in talking about that when so many of the nominees have made so many bad movies? Here we focus on the worst of the worst, but if you check out the podcast we mention even more.

5. Halloween II (2009)

Octavia Spencer’s 20+ year career, struggling early with low-budget supporting work, guarantees her a place in this list. Indeed, she could have taken several slots (2006’s Pulse is especially rank), but we find ourselves drawn to Rob Zombie’s sequel to his 2007 revisionist history.

Zombie ups the violence, adds dream sequences and suggests that Laurie Strode (played here, poorly, by Scout Taylor-Compton) shares some hereditary psychosis with her brother Michael.

Spencer plays the Night Nurse, which naturally means that she dies. Pretty spectacularly, actually, but that hardly salvages the mirthless cameo-tastic retread.

4. Gary Oldman: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Francis Ford Coppola took his shot at Dracula in ’92. How’d he do?

Cons: Keanu Reeves cannot act. Winona Ryder can act—we’ve seen her act—but she shows no aptitude for it here, and lord she should not do accents. Anthony Hopkins has always enjoyed the taste of scenery, but his performance here is just ham-fisted camp.

Pros: Gary Oldman, who can chomp scenery with the best chewers in the biz, munches here with great panache. He delivers a perversely fascinating performance. His queer old man Dracula, in particular – asynchronous shadow and all – offers a lot of creepy fun. Plus, Tom Waits as Renfield – nice!

Still, there’s no looking past Ryder, whose performance is high school drama bad.

3. Clownhouse (1989)

There are several fascinating pieces of information concerning the derivative yet uniquely weird Clownhouse. These range from odd to awful.

1) The Sundance Film Festival somehow found this film—this one, Clownhouse, the movie about 3 escaped mental patients who dress as clowns, break into a house where three brothers are home alone on Halloween night, and commence to terrify and slaughter them— worthy of a nomination for Best Drama. If you haven’t seen this film, you might not quite recognize how profoundly insane that is.

2) The great and underappreciated Sam Rockwell made his feature debut as the dickhead oldest brother in this movie. The clowns themselves—Cheezo, Bippo, and Dippo—are genuinely scary and garishly fascinating, but outside of them, only Rockwell can act. At all.

3) Writer/director Victor Salva would go on to create the Jeepers Creepers franchise. But first he would serve 15 months of a 3-year state prison sentence for molesting the 12-year-old lead actor in this film, Nathan Forrest Winters.

So, basically, this film should never have been made. But at least Rockwell got his start here.

2. Margot Robbie: ICU (2009)

Margot Robbie is a confirmed talent. Underappreciated in her wickedly perfect turn in Wolf of Wall Street, she has gone on to prove that she is far more than a stunning beauty (though she certainly is that).

Not that you’d realize that by way of her early work in this low-budget Aussie dumpster fire.

The then-19-year-old leads a cast of unhappy teens vacationing for the weekend with their estranged dad, who’s called into work yet again. To entertain themselves, they peep on their neighbors through the facing skyscraper windows.

Robbie showers, swims and changes clothes at least 3 needless times within the film’s opening 10 minutes, which makes a film that wags a finger at modern voyeurism feel a little hypocritical. But to even make that statement is to take writer/director Aash Aaron’s film too seriously. Heinously acted, abysmally written and tediously directed, it amounts to 50 minutes of whining followed by utterly ludicrous plot twists, unless Australia boasts the largest per-capita number of serial killers on earth.

But the point is this: Robbie would go on to deliver stellar performances, so this is just something we all need to shake off.

1. Frances McDormand: Crimewave (1985)

Is a horror film really a horror film just because imdb.com says so?

Well, anything as bad as Crimewave is a horror, that’s for sure. The fact that it’s a slapstick crime comedy at its heart hardly matters.

Co-written by Joel and Ethan Coen, directed by Sam Raimi and co-starring Bruce Campbell, this film has a pedigree. And we love them all so much we can almost forgive them for this insufferable disaster. But we suffered through it for two scenes—one at the beginning, one at the end—involving a nun who’s taken a vow of silence.

Frances McDormand, what the hell are you doing in this movie?

No, no. We get it. If we were duped into optimism by Coen brother involvement, what hope did you have? You couldn’t have known that the result would be a tiresome, embarrassing, un-funny, painful waste of 83 minutes.





Truth in Advertising

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

by George Wolf

In any form, great writing is a joy to behold. On the movie screen, pair it with skilled actors and you’re more than halfway home to a memorable experience.

Three Billboards… gets all the way home.

Writer/director Martin McDonagh provides his stellar ensemble with smart, insightful dialog that crackles with bite, poignancy and scattershot hilarity. His tale is offbeat but urgent and welcome, speaking as it does to grief, compassion, and navigating the contrasts between the good and evil in our flawed selves.

Frances McDormand is sensational as Mildred, a woman still haunted by the unsolved murder of her daughter seven months earlier. Passing by a series of abandoned billboards on her rural drive home one evening, Mildred decides to rent them, publicly asking Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, capping off a year of multiple great performances) why there have been no arrests.

This is not a popular move, not with the Sheriff, his violent deputy (Sam Rockwell – fantastic), Mildred’s abusive ex-husband (John Hawkes), her embarrassed son (Lucas Hedges) or…who else ya got?

Only an enthusiastic co-worker (Amanda Warren) and a hopeful suitor (Peter Dinklage) offer support, leaving Mildred as a small-town pariah.

She is unmoved, and McDormand crafts Mildred with meaningful layers, as a foul-mouthed firebrand lashing out at injustice and sorrow with a defiant lack of concern for consequence. She is absolutely award-worthy, as are Rockwell and Harrelson, and as their character arcs take unexpected detours, the film displays its relevant social conscience through both subtlety and aggression.

McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) compliments his usual knack for piercing wordplay with well-paced visual storytelling and some downright shocking tonal shifts. We are constantly engaged but never quite at ease, as McDonagh demands our attention through brutality and dark humor, holding the moments of humanity until they will be most deeply satisfying.

Behind Three Billboards..are performers able to create rich, indelible characters and a bold filmmaker whose vision and instincts have never been more on point.





Fright Club: Best Clown Horror

Clowns! You hate ’em, we hate ’em. There may be nothing as universally terrifying as the clown, and yet, a proper clown horror film is a tough nut to crack.

So, before we launch into the 5 best clown films, let’s first pay tribute to the 5 scariest clowns to ever grace the screen:

5. Zombieland Clown (Derek Graf)

Zombie-Clown-zombieland-20358487-1280-1024

4. Captain Spalding (House of 1000 Corpses/Devil’s Rejects) (Sid Haig)

captainspaulding4_by_mortikye

3. Poltergeist Clown

poltergeist_035pyxurz-annabelle-the-creepiest-doll-of-all-time-jpeg-144531

2. Twisty the Clown (American Horror Story: Freakshow) (John Carrol Lynch)

american-horror-story-freak-show

1. Pennywise (It) (Tim Curry)

maxresdefault

On to the main event! Here are the five clowniest horror movies!

5. Clownhouse (1989)

There are several fascinating pieces of information concerning the derivative yet uniquely weird Clownhouse. These range from odd to awful.

1) The Sundance Film Festival somehow found this film – this one, Clownhouse, the movie about 3 escaped mental patients who dress as clowns, break into a house where three brothers are home alone on Halloween night, and commence to terrify and slaughter them – worthy of a nomination for Best Drama. If you haven’t seen this film, you might not quite recognize how profoundly insane that is.

2) The great and underappreciated Sam Rockwell made his feature debut as the dickhead oldest brother in this movie. The clowns themselves – Cheezo, Bippo, and Dippo – are genuinely scary and garishly fascinating, but outside of them, only Rockwell can act. At all.

3) Writer/director Victor Salva would go on to create the Jeepers Creepers franchise. But first he would serve 15 months of a 3-year state prison sentence for molesting the 12-year-old lead actor in this film, Nathan Forrest Winters.

Basically, there are four really solid clown horror movies in the world and about 200 truly bad ones. Clownhouse does set itself above the rest of the muck with these disturbing points of interest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi0ci-GjLx4

4. Clown (2014)

Sympathetic, surprising, and often very uncomfortable, Jon Watt’s 2014 horror flick, though far from perfect, does an excellent job of morphing that lovable party favorite into the red-nosed freak from your nightmares.

Kent (a pitiful Andy Powers) stumbles across a vintage clown outfit in an estate property he’s fitting for resale. Perfect timing – his son’s birthday party is in an hour. What a surprise this will be, unless the suit is cursed in some way and will slowly turn Kent into a child-eating demon.

It does! Hooray!!!

A weird-as-ever supporting turn from Peter Stormare helps the film overcome other acting weaknesses, but Watts gets credit for taking the horror places you might not expect, and for squeezing as much sympathy as possible before that last swing of the ax.

3. The Man Who Laughs (1928)

The German Expressionist director Paul Leni (Waxworks, The Cat and the Canary) worked with J. Grubb Alexander’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel to cast a macabre spell with this film – one of our very favorites.

A nobleman offends the king, who kills the nobleman (iron maiden!) and has his son, Gwynplaine, disfigured by a surgeon so he can spend his life laughing at his fool of a father. The boy is tossed out, wandering in the snow. He finds a blind baby girl, and the two are saved by a traveling carny.

As is Hugo’s way, goodness is found in the tormented and hideous while the gorgeous society show themselves to be the true beasts. The film looks gloomily gorgeous, and in the hands of silent film star Conrad Veidt, Gwynplaine becomes Hugo’s most sympathetic and heartbreaking monster.

2. Stitches (2012)

There are a lot of scary clowns in films, but not that many can carry an entire film. Stitches can.

This Irish import sees a half-assed clown accidentally offed at a 6-year-old’s birthday party, only to return to finish his act when the lad turns 16.

Yes, it is a familiar slasher set up: something happened ten years ago – an accident! It was nobody’s fault! They were only children!! And then, ten years later, a return from the grave timed perfectly with a big bash that lets the grisly menace pick teens off one by one. But co-writer/director Connor McMahon does not simply tread that well-worn path. He makes glorious use of the main difference: his menace is a sketchy, ill-tempered clown.

Dark yet bawdy humor and game performances elevate this one way above teen slasher. Gory, gross, funny and well-acted – it brings to mind some of Peter Jackson’s early work. It’s worth a look.

1. The Last Circus (2010)

Who’s in the mood for something weird?

Unhinged Spanish filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia returns to form with The Last Circus, a breathtakingly bizarre look at a Big Top love triangle set in Franco’s Spain.

Describing the story in much detail would risk giving away too many of the astonishing images. A boy loses his performer father to conscription in Spain’s civil war, and decades later, with Franco’s reign’s end in sight, he follows in pop’s clown-sized footsteps and joins the circus. There he falls for another clown’s woman, and stuff gets nutty.

Like Tarantino, Igelsia pulls together ideas and images from across cinema and blends them into something uniquely his own, crafting a film that’s somewhat familiar, but never, ever predictable.

The Last Circus boasts more than brilliantly wrong-minded direction and stunningly macabre imagery – though of these things it certainly boasts. Within that bloody and perverse chaos are some of the more touching performances to be found onscreen.





Not Quite Dynamite

Don Verdean

by Hope Madden

A self-proclaimed biblical archeologist somehow finds holy artifacts that have eluded the scientific and theological community for centuries – millennia, even – and brings them home to the US of A to help one Utah pastor reinvigorate his flock.

A ripe premise, that. The fact that the archeologist is played by Sam Rockwell, and the pastor by Danny McBride, only heightens the possibilities. On top of that, Don Verdean was directed by Jared Hess, co-written with his wife Jerusha, the team responsible for Napoleon Dynamite.

This should definitely work better than it does.

On paper, Don Verdean is a hoot. Add to the capable leads and a satire-rich premise the outstanding supporting cast. Amy Ryan offers an understated tenderness and humor as Don’s faithful assistant Carol, and Leslie Bibb is a stitch in her too-small role as Joylinda Lazarus, former prostitute, current pastor’s wife.

But Jemaine Clement could face criminal charges for the way he steals scenes as Verdean’s man on the ground in the Holy Land, Boaz.

The pieces are there, but the execution is way off. Hess’s film is too sweetly, compassionately cynical for its own good. What humor the film offers is frustratingly laid back, and far too often a tart comedic set up suffers from weak follow through.

The Hesses don’t seem to have the teeth for religious satire. Is Verdean a huckster or a soft but decent man led astray by Satan’s earthly influence, greed? Or is everyone in the film just suffering from idiocy and whimsy in equal measure?

Most disheartening of all is the misuse of Rockwell, who also executive produces. His performance is so low key as to be sleep inducing.

Rockwell and Clement co-starred in the Hesses’ previous effort, Gentlemen Broncos, which was far weirder than it was funny. For their next film they dialed down the weird a bit, but the comedy itself is even more subdued.

That’s unfortunate, because they may have really had something if they’d known what to do with it.

Verdict-2-5-Stars





Digging Your Scene

Digging for Fire

by George Wolf

A strong ensemble cast and a crafty, improvisational script make Digging for Fire a new high water mark for a filmmaker inching cautiously closer to the mainstream.

For over a decade, Joe Swanberg has been a busy boy, serving as writer, director, actor, editor, cinematographer and more on various obscure shorts, mumblecore staples, and indie favorites. He’s probably best known for his role in the slasher flick You’re Next, but Swanberg’s 2013 effort Drinking Buddies earned him plenty of notice as writer/director with a refreshing voice.

Digging for Fire‘s cast is full of Swanberg favorites, led by Jake Johnson, who also helped write the script. Johnson plays Tim, who is staying with his wife Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) and their young son Jude (Jude Swanberg, Joe incredibly cute son) In a swanky house they don’t own.

Lee teaches yoga in LA, and while some of her clients are away shooting a movie, Lee and her happy young family agree to house sit, where Tim promptly finds an old bone and a rusty gun while checking out the grounds.

As the weekend approaches, Lee leaves the boys at home to visit her parents, and then have a girls’ nite with an old friend. Tim promises to do the taxes while she’s gone, but he can’t get his mind off of his strange discovery. Once some friends come over and beer starts flowing, seeing what other secrets might be buried in the yard starts sounding like a great idea.

Both Lee and Tim find plenty of temptation in their respective adventures, and Digging for Fire becomes a quietly insightful take on managing priorities throughout the changing phases of life.

Swanberg’s camera often drifts without anchor, perfect for the bevy of recognizable faces that come and go (Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Sam Elliott, Orlando Bloom and more), some for only one scene. You can see why these talents are drawn to such a free-form filmmaking structure, and all are able to carve out memorable characters that influence the choices Lee and Tim are pondering.

Though obvious, Swanberg’s extended metaphor is effective, as responsibilities of marriage and family clash with the yearning for lost freedom. If you keep digging for something, you just might find it, and that can be playing with fire.

 

Verdict-3-5-Stars

 

 

 





They’re Back

Poltergeist

by Hope Madden

Thirty three years ago, Steven Spielberg unleashed two tales of supernatural contact in anonymous, suburban neighborhoods. Things went better for Elliott.

Between producer Spielberg’s sense of awe and director Tobe Hooper’s capacity for imaginative terror, the original Poltergeist far exceeded expectations, and though several sequences have not aged well, it remains a potent horror show.

A generation later, we return to Glen Echo Circle, now the victim of a downturned economy, as are the Bowens. Sam Rockwell and Rosemary DeWitt play the parents unwillingly relocating their three kids to the neighborhood to accommodate their now-more-modest means. Their son Griffin (Kyle Catlett) doesn’t like his room because of the creepy tree outside, but little Maddie (adorable Kennedi Clements) is already making friends.

This is a tough film to remake. The original combined superficial thrills with primal fears and offered the giddy mix of Spielberg’s wonder and Hooper’s twisted vision. Wisely, director Gil Kenan started with a solid cast.

Rockwell is always a good bet and DeWitt is fast becoming the go-to for authenticity in the suburban mom role. Jared Hess offers a little panache as the medium who cleans houses, and the supporting performers turn in respectable work.

Kenan can’t seem to decide whether or not to embrace the original’s more iconic moments, and his revisions feel more like obligation than inspiration. What his version lacks is a big punch. He’s hampered by audience expectation – we kind of know what’s coming, after all – but that doesn’t excuse his lack of imagination.

The director proved a savvy storyteller with his Oscar-nominated animated nightmare Monster House, a film that was surprisingly terrifying for a kids’ movie. That kind of exuberance could have infected this production, but the sequel lacks energy.

Poltergeist is not a bad movie, just disappointing. A lot of reboots are, but there are some that feel like one filmmaker’s love letter to a movie. Films like The Ring, The Crazies, Dawn of the Dead, and more recently, Evil Dead work as reboots because they inhabited an old story but found a new voice. Kenan doesn’t find his. The result is entertaining and forgettable.

Verdict-2-5-Stars





High School Confidential

 

Laggies (aka Say When)

by George Wolf

Is this movie called Laggies, or Say When? What does “laggies” mean? And why couldn’t  someone think of a better title for that last Tom Cruise movie than Edge of Tomorrow?

Good questions. The answers are 1) Laggies in the U.S., Say When elsewhere  2) it’s Southern California slang for those who “lag behind” 3) no idea.

Really, the most important question for Laggies, and nearly all romantic comedies is: how well does it get to where you already know it’s going? That answer here is…pretty well.

Keira Knightley is Megan, a college grad caught in a twenty something life crisis. She helps out at her dad’s tax service and has a nice boyfriend and all, but she just can’t get enthused about the whole marriage/career/kids life plan that her friends are embracing.

Megan promises to buckle down and get with the program, even agreeing to go away for a week-long self-improvement seminar. Instead, she hides out at the home of Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz), a high schooler she met at the local mini-mart. Turns out, Annika could really use a positive female role model and her dad Craig (Sam Rockwell) is hip and single so, you know, cool.

Director Lynn Shelton (Your Sister’s Sister/Touchy Feely) provides the appropriate touch for a tale of three people at completely different points in life all looking for the same thing. Much like the characters, sometimes her film’s breezy wanderlust is refreshing, other times it yearns for the anchor of a more logical structure.

Andrea Seigel offers up a likable debut screenplay, often clever and amusing, made even more so by the talented cast. Knightley is at her most charming, as she and Rockwell, who continues to improve everything he’s in, display a winning chemistry. Just try and get through Craig’s interrogation of his daughter’s new, unusually older friend without smiling.

Moretz, again showing her recent stumble in If I Stay was an outlier, gives Annika a welcome authenticity, with humor and vulnerability that seem miles away from the usual teen caricatures populating movie screens.

Will you think about Laggies much after the lights come up? No, but you’ll probably enjoy the journey to an ending you’ve already guessed.

 

Verdict-3-0-Stars