The Lifeguard (2013)
Leigh, almost 30, is living a seemingly perfect life in New York. But when her career and love life both come crashing down, she flees to her suburban hometown and regresses right back into high school life. Picking up right where her teen halcyon days left off, she moves into her old room with her parents, hangs out with friends who never left town, and reclaims her high school job as a condo-complex lifeguard. But as Leigh enjoys shirking off adult life and responsibilities, and enters into an illicit affair, she begins a chain reaction that affects those closest to her. (c) Screen Media and Focus World … More
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Critic Reviews for The Lifeguard
Although writer-director Liz W. Garcia's wistful, angsty tale treads familiar ground, the filmmaker has crafted a credibly flawed and conflicted heroine who holds interest.
The central character simply comes across as whiny and entitled instead of troubled and dark, and the central theme of getting your groove back by acting like a kid again has been done many times by much more talented filmmakers.
The movie really depends on Bell, and her story, and neither is interesting or compelling enough to engage us.
This directorial debut by Liz W. Garcia, a writer for television, bears some echoes of its creator's origins, going from deft to trite in its drama and setting up character arcs that feel sappily resolved within its feature length.
The movie's being billed in some quarters as a comedy, which is a hell of a stretch given that the plot expands to take in statutory rape and teen suicide.
This sorrowful, achingly wise little drama has a lot to say about the dangers of hanging on to youth at all costs.
A strikingly realistic approach lifts this comedy-drama above the fray, combining skilful writing and direction with transparent performances that reveal the characters' internal struggles.
The writer/director stifles any actual feeling with thudding, heavily-underlined subtext-as-text dialogue and an overreliance on indie rock scored musical montages
"The Lifeguard" is hemmed in by vagueness and cliche, and nearly ruined by its soundtrack, an insistent barrage of thematically obvious alt-radio music cues.
With apologies to Thomas Wolfe, you can go home again; The Lifeguard just proves that sometimes it's not the best course of action.
The film strains to be hip and edgy in its exploration of catharsis through starting over, and its central relationship feels more contrived than authentic.
Solid performances can't save the undercooked, shallow, overly simplistic screenplay.
Bell gives a strong performance, eschewing her own perky persona to navigate the melancholia, but the script's conclusion fails to go as deep as the heavy lead-in requires.
Apparently it's hard to be a grownup in today's crazy world without committing consequence-free statutory rape. Ugh.
Rather than feeling as though we're emotionally connected to [the lead character] during her descent, we're all too aware of the machinations of the screenplay, struggling to find ways to sink her and then bring her back up.
Audience Reviews for The Lifeguard
This Summer Growing Up is Optional.
Good movie! The film is only exiting and exhilarating if you know before hand what Statutory Rape is and what are the consequences if you were to engage in this illicit act. In Connecticut, the legal consequence for statutory rape is prison for 10 to 20 years. Here in Florida is even worse. It means to be a registered as a sex offender for the rest of your life and not being able to live within a 3 mile radius of a High School, park or where children play. To find a place like that here in South Florida, you would have to move under a Highway and close to the Everglades swamps. Though a decidedly darker film than one would expect, tragic moments are often interrupted by a certain lightness that, in the film's conclusion, allows the audience to hope for our protagonists' future. This is definitely a film worth watching, if simply for the experience of becoming invested in this deeply character-driven story.
A former valedictorian quits her reporter job in New York and returns to the place she last felt happy: her childhood home in Connecticut. She gets work as a lifeguard and starts a dangerous relationship with a troubled teenager.
Kristen Bell headlines the deplorable indie film The Lifeguard. A depressed and disaffected New York City reporter returns to her home town where she reverts back to her delinquent ways and has an affair with a high school student. The plot just meanders aimlessly from cliche to cliche without any point. And, the characters aren't very likable or interesting. The acting us also especially weak; even Bell gives a phoned in performance. The Lifeguard is an insipid and inane piece of tripe that hints at a moral, but never gets around to it.More
Liz W. Garcia has something on her mind, and with her feature debut, THE LIFEGUARD, she gently doles it out in this quiet, sweet, heartbreaking look at messing up, learning and growing. Kristen Bell is Leigh, an unhappy New York City journalist who escapes the Big Apple for her Connecticut hometown where she resumes her High School job watching the pool at an apartment complex. Entitled and oblivious to the needs of those around her, she's not exactly the top candidate for entrusting lives, but she looks great in her red one-piece Speedo, so into the high chair she goes!
Falling right back in with her group of friends and immediately alienating her mother (a terrific and tough Amy Madigan), Leigh fully embraces her childish ways, literally and figuratively. Not content to smoke weed with the local skater dudes, she slides right into a full-blown affair with her boss' 16-year-old son. Switch genders and you'd have a Todd Solondz movie about a pedophile, but here, Garcia wisely lets us feel the eroticism of the pairing while also showing us real emotional consequences and real judgment from other characters.
And what a wonderful supporting cast it is. Mamie Gummer, who has always come off as Meryl Streep 2.0 (because she IS Meryl Streep 2.0!), really carves out her own identity as an actor in this film. A master at conveying conflicting emotions, she's the High School Vice Principal who is tired of plating by the rules, and her marriage is suffering in the process. Her husband, played by Joshua Harto, real-life husband of Garcia's and a producer on the film as well, is the conservative voice of reason who refuses to stand idly by as his wife throws everything away. Their scenes together not only illustrate the central themes of the film, but they feel true to how mismatched couples have to sometimes work hard to keep it together.
David Lambert plays Leigh's love interest, and does a wonderful job of presenting a matinee idol quality only to see it crumble during one shocking, traumatic incident. It is in this scene where a young man playing grown-up for the benefit of his girlfriend shows the scared little boy underneath, and it's a well-earned moment for the character and for the film.
Special mention must go to Alex Shaffer, so good in WIN/WIN as the wrestler Paul Giamatti adopts, who plays one of those sullen punks with much more going on under the surface. It's a sad and vivid performance, and I look forward to seeing his career blossom.
For me, the only real weak link in the chain is how Martin Starr's closeted, best friend character is handled. Starr's performance is fine, in fact, he deftly handles some truly uncomfortable moments, but it felt like there may have been a scene missing that would have truly given us a little more oomph to his resolution.
The cinematography by TV veteran, John Peters, is wonderful, especially during the nighttime poolside montage and in the iconic shot of Bell overlooking the water at dusk. His camera work is intuitive and watchful, allowing us to bask in Bell's beguiling stillness.
Some slight quibbles:
- Andy Samberg threw down the gauntlet by chiding indie filmmakers to NEVER again show a character rolling her hand in the wind (SEE BOTTLECAP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILxP0w6BOeQ#t=33), yet we got a shot of it early on here. JUST NO!
- I forgive first time directors for breaking the 180-degree rule by crossing the line here and there, but her experienced DP should have shut it down. There are a couple of scenes where Garcia intercuts two characters speaking to each other on the same side of the frame.
- In this soundtrack-heavy film, which reaches GARDEN STATE levels of hip indie choices, a little more restraint in some on-the-nose titles would have been an improvement.
Again, minor rookie mistakes from a director with a keen sense for how she wants to portray beautiful but messy women onscreen. You get a real sense of a small community here, and some surprising outbursts, such as the hilarious scene involving one of the most foul-mouthed 6-year-olds of all time. There's nothing like watching a character getting her bubble burst by a toddler.
For those expecting a comedy, however, think again. Garcia sets the tone in her perfectly economical opening scenes by giving us an allegorical tale of a trapped tiger. The sense of tragedy on Bell's face as this story unfolds tell us this isn't a laugh riot so much as a meditative character study of a hurt young woman. THE LIFEGUARD isn't perfect, but it's a look into a fresh cinematic voice with a lovely, light touch.
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