Release date: 7 November 2014
Running time: 99 min
Director: Lynn Shelton
Starring: Keira Knightley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell
“A comedy about acting your age and other adult decisions”. So reads the tagline for Say When, the latest offering from Lynn Shelton. It is a slogan that implies a look at lovable losers stuck in arrested development. A more fitting line would be “First World Problems”, as this awkward story boils down to rich friends not being as fun to hang around with as they use to be, and a partner who proposes in an unromantic fashion. Kooky comedies about gorgeous, privileged people whining about how hard life is can be a tough sell, but Shelton’s cringeworthy observations of the oblivious elite are actually the film’s greatest strength.
Keira Knightley is Megan, a lost soul who hit life’s pause button after her senior prom and now finds herself holding up advertisement signs at the side of the road. When the inevitable quarter life crisis hits she finds herself befriending high schooler Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) and when her dreary boyfriend pops the question, Megan decides to lay low at her new BFF’s home. The plot is neither here nor there, relying on clanking contrivances to get from A to B, and with so little at stake the destination is irrelevant. The most watchable moments come in the opening act where Shelton highlights the absurdity of suburbia, with some entertainingly awful representations of the American upper middle class- including one of the most awkward first wedding dances in recent memory.
Sadly these best moments occur in the first half an hour, leaving it to the cast to carry it through for the final two thirds. Desperately trying to hold onto her days of high school glory, Knightley has a touch of the Uncle Rico’s from Napoleon Dynamite about her, and makes a surprisingly effective train wreck. Her chemistry with Ellie Kemper as her obnoxious bestie brings excruciating comedy early on, while Sam Rockwell is a class above as Annika’s cynical father, despite being somewhat on autopilot. It makes Say When more watchable than it ever had any right to be, an ensemble of talented performers and well judged humour elevating the non-event story into a completely watchable affair.