Lynn Shelton is sitting in a suite in downtown Seattle’s Hotel 1000 on a sunny September day and she’s feeling mixed emotions. Her new film “Laggies” is just weeks away from its nationwide opening Oct. 24.
“It’s wide release. Hundreds of screens,” Shelton said. “It’s terrifying and it’s super awesome. I’m anxious and excited.”
The Seattle-based director made a name for herself in the indie film world with 2011’s “My Sister’s Sister” and 2013’s “Touchy Feely,” among other self-written features. But “Laggies” is her first wide release and her first film with a multi-million-dollar budget.
“It has independent film credibility but still has a crossover to the broader audience,” Shelton said.
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The film features Keira Knightley (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) as its main character. She plays a young woman a few years past college but unwilling to commit to either a career or her longtime boyfriend (Mark Webber). She’s lagging behind and in the parlance of the film, that makes her a laggie.
After ditching her boyfriend at a friend’s Seattle Center wedding, Knightley’s character runs into a group of teens who ask her to buy alcohol for them. One of them, played by Chloë Grace Moretz (”Kick Ass,” “Carrie”), offers her sanctuary at her Seattle home. There, her bemused father, played by Sam Rockwell, isn’t quite sure what to make of his teen daughter’s 20-something new friend.
The film balances on that axis between the indulgences of youth and the responsibilities of adulthood, personified by one’s circle of friends as they marry, have families and start careers.
Though Shelton has worked on and off in television, this is the first film she’s directed using someone else’s script. The story, by Andrea Seigel, jived with Shelton’s style, she said.
“I really connected to it,” Shelton said. “The characters felt so fleshed out. They leapt off the page.”
As with “Touchy Feely,” Seattle itself is a character in “Laggies,” with scenes shot in recognizable locales.
Seattle has gotten an increasing amount of screen time lately in film and on TV. But like a TV soap opera evil twin assuming her sister’s identity, it’s more often than not Vancouver, B.C., playing the part. Two recent TV series, AMC’s “The Killing” and BBC America’s “Intruders,” were both set in Seattle, but shot in Vancouver with laughable geographical contradictions.
“It’s a big, big pet peeve of mine,” Shelton says about geographical inaccuracy. “People tell me they aren’t making these movies for the Seattle market, but I’m still a stickler for (accuracy).”
Shelton even went as far to include the cultural differences between the east and west sides of Lake Washington in her film. She wanted Rockwell’s house to be on the west side, in a lived-in neighborhood. She contrasted that with the newer, flashier east-side house owned by the parents of Knightley’s character.
Though the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been in her career with “Laggies,” Shelton said the process was familiar because she was working with her usual Seattle cohorts. Her work on TV, including “Mad Men” and “New Girl,” prepared her for big productions. “I’m used to the chaos and hubbub of that kind of set. It doesn’t faze me anymore,” she said.
The film also makes use of another local talent, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. He emailed Shelton out of the blue and offered her his skills, she said. Gibbard scored the film, his first feature.
“He wrote this song for the end credits that just melts me every time I hear it,” Shelton said.