Opening Friday

Amovie about the essential tyranny of adulthood, LAGGIES stars Keira Knightly as Megan, a flighty and overeducated 20-something still hanging around her hometown of suburban Seattle. “Flighty” is the operative term: Seeing the world of marriage and career approaching, Meg runs like hell the other way.

With friends like hers, the strategy seems sound. Meg’s bestie Allison (Ellie Kemper) is a high-strung bridezilla, intent upon arranging her wedding and subsequent life just so. The rest of Meg’s college pals are getting equally creepy, including her longtime boyfriend Anthony (Mark Webber), recently returned from one of those weekend life-coaching seminars that promise enlightenment and career success for one low price.

Sensibly panicked, Meg flees Allison’s wedding and meets 16-year-old student Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) hanging with her high-school pals outside of a grocery store. In time-honored tradition, Annika asks Meg if she’ll buy them some beer. Meg agrees, making the first of a movie-length string of dubious decisions.

Laggies follows the increasingly implausible friendship that develops between Meg and Annika. It’s a comic set-up with dramatic elements, or maybe the other way around. In Meg, Annika sees a cool adult who can be a kind of surrogate for her absent mom. In Annika, Meg sees the youthful life she’s reluctant to leave behind.

Director Lynn Shelton made her name with loose, largely improvised alt-comedies such as the lovely 2011 film Your Sister’s Sister, which splashes about with easy authenticity in the messy waters of love, family and friendship. This time, she’s working with an eye for mainstream romantic comedy conventions as well as a script by someone else, YA writer Andrea Seigel.

Laggies has good performances and some very funny scenes, most of which center on Sam Rockwell as Craig, Annika’s dad and Meg’s inevitable love interest. When Meg worries that the teenage girls will notice the two adults sneaking off together, Craig reassures her: “They’re like gerbils. They have no sense of time.”

But the film’s focus gradually scatters as the script’s rom-com contrivances pile up. There are several scenes of people walking in on other people kissing, and you’ll see all of them coming a few beats before they arrive. Then there’s that unfortunate prom sequence.

In Shelton’s previous films, nothing is tidy, and comedy and drama twist around each other organically. You don’t think about the script because there isn’t one. Here, the screenplay keeps intruding, insisting on too-familiar formulas. It’s a bummer, because the story raises some intriguing, uncomfortable questions about whether adulthood is really worth all the effort.

“Laggie” is apparently a teen slang term for slowpoke, by the way. I had to look that up.

This article appeared in print with the headline “Friend zone”