The Lifeguard

2013

The Lifeguard

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

16%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 31

26%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,040
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Movie Info

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

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Critic Reviews for The Lifeguard

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (13)

  • "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.

    Sep 2, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Aug 30, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Aug 30, 2013 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…
  • The movie really depends on Bell, and her story, and neither is interesting or compelling enough to engage us.

    Aug 30, 2013 | Rating: 1.5/4
  • 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.

    Aug 29, 2013 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Aug 29, 2013 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Lifeguard

  • Dec 31, 2014
    The central character, Leigh (Bell), is a selfish, disgusting, pedophilic person whose narrative isn't all that interesting or valid. She says she's lost in her life and needs to be grounded in her childhood job and home, but instead of finding herself, she simply gives up her life in the city because she's thoughtless. It's fine to misstep and take time off, but she doesn't come home to reflect and get along with her parents. Contrary to this supposed storyline, Leigh disrespects her parents, takes up with a sixteen year old kid, drags her friends into her wormhole of horribleness, and acts out like a teenager. The entire film is gross in its lovelorn depictions of the affair between Leigh and a teenager (Lambert), who she manipulates throughout the course of the film. She nearly ruins her friend's (Gummer) marriage and makes her other friend (Starr) feel like a horrible human being. The ending doesn't have Leigh understand her missteps and rectify the situation, but abandon her victims and flee elsewhere. This is a seriously screwed up film, if indeed it's trying to make the main character seem emotionally sound.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 25, 2013
    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.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 03, 2013
    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.
    Manu G Super Reviewer
  • Aug 31, 2013
    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.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer

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