Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: The Lifeguard

Not even a checklist of indie film attributes can inject a sense of originality into this familiar narrative.

Aug 28, 2013

-By Justin Lowe


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1383978-Lifeguard_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

For her feature directing debut, screenwriter Liz W. Garcia pegs her semi-comedic storyline to a wafer-thin premise about a woman returning to her hometown and attempting to re-experience her adolescence in all the wrong ways. Although a slight, overly contrived film, The Lifeguard will nevertheless strike chords with young women approaching and contending with their 30s.

Leigh (Kristen Bell), 29 and mostly single, is an AP reporter who’s finding coverage of New York City metro news increasingly stressful, but it’s the revelation that her lover/editor/boss is getting married that prompts her to drop out of her job, return to her Connecticut hometown and move in with her parents, telling them, “I just need some time out from my life,” much to their bemusement.

With a playbook that essentially consists of rewinding to her high-school years, Leigh gets a job as a lifeguard at the pool where she used to work back in the day, reunites with her BFFs—married Mel (Mamie Gummer) and closeted Todd (Martin Starr)—and begins acting like a teenager again.

After meeting skater kid Jason (David Lambert), the 16-year-old son of the on-premises groundskeeper at the pool, Leigh and Todd convince him and his friends to buy them some pot and before you can say “kegger,” the teens and adults are hanging out and partying together, propelled by Leigh’s youthful regression. Even straitlaced Mel, now the vice principal of their old high school, joins in.

Jason begins making his interest in Leigh fairly clear and they’re soon engaged in a torrid affair that essentially rewrites her personal history, replacing her virginal high-school years with a sexed-up reboot. Jason’s intent to drop out of classes and move to Vermont before the fall term starts forces Leigh to begin reconsidering her future as well, until an unexpected tragedy overturns everybody’s plans.

Surprisingly for a writer turned director, the most evident shortcomings with Garcia’s feature originate with the script. With barely any backstory to support them, the characters consistently appear to lack the motivations necessary for their actions. It seems highly implausible for adults with too much at stake and so little impetus other than getting high or getting laid to repeatedly engage in so much risky behavior with underage teens. Opportunities that could be better devoted to developing character or advancing the plot are squandered on repetitive montage sequences supported by forgettably lighthearted pop tunes.

As director, Garcia shows more decisiveness—cinematography, coverage and editorial are all competently accomplished, but cast direction often wavers, unable to rise above the limitations of the script.

While Kristen Bell’s talent and charisma are clearly evident, she seems adrift with her character, since Leigh has no clear justification for abandoning her city life and career to return home, much less for initiating an affair with the teenage son of her co-worker, clearly putting her newfound job at risk. Lambert manages a believable chemistry with Bell, but can’t summon the appropriate teen swagger for the remainder of the part. The rest of the cast mostly serves to drive inconsequential subplots.

With this perhaps semi-autobiographical film in the can, Connecticut native Garcia may find more consequential alternatives for exercising her considerable talents.
The Hollywood Reporter



Film Review: The Lifeguard

Not even a checklist of indie film attributes can inject a sense of originality into this familiar narrative.

Aug 28, 2013

-By Justin Lowe


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1383978-Lifeguard_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

For her feature directing debut, screenwriter Liz W. Garcia pegs her semi-comedic storyline to a wafer-thin premise about a woman returning to her hometown and attempting to re-experience her adolescence in all the wrong ways. Although a slight, overly contrived film, The Lifeguard will nevertheless strike chords with young women approaching and contending with their 30s.

Leigh (Kristen Bell), 29 and mostly single, is an AP reporter who’s finding coverage of New York City metro news increasingly stressful, but it’s the revelation that her lover/editor/boss is getting married that prompts her to drop out of her job, return to her Connecticut hometown and move in with her parents, telling them, “I just need some time out from my life,” much to their bemusement.

With a playbook that essentially consists of rewinding to her high-school years, Leigh gets a job as a lifeguard at the pool where she used to work back in the day, reunites with her BFFs—married Mel (Mamie Gummer) and closeted Todd (Martin Starr)—and begins acting like a teenager again.

After meeting skater kid Jason (David Lambert), the 16-year-old son of the on-premises groundskeeper at the pool, Leigh and Todd convince him and his friends to buy them some pot and before you can say “kegger,” the teens and adults are hanging out and partying together, propelled by Leigh’s youthful regression. Even straitlaced Mel, now the vice principal of their old high school, joins in.

Jason begins making his interest in Leigh fairly clear and they’re soon engaged in a torrid affair that essentially rewrites her personal history, replacing her virginal high-school years with a sexed-up reboot. Jason’s intent to drop out of classes and move to Vermont before the fall term starts forces Leigh to begin reconsidering her future as well, until an unexpected tragedy overturns everybody’s plans.

Surprisingly for a writer turned director, the most evident shortcomings with Garcia’s feature originate with the script. With barely any backstory to support them, the characters consistently appear to lack the motivations necessary for their actions. It seems highly implausible for adults with too much at stake and so little impetus other than getting high or getting laid to repeatedly engage in so much risky behavior with underage teens. Opportunities that could be better devoted to developing character or advancing the plot are squandered on repetitive montage sequences supported by forgettably lighthearted pop tunes.

As director, Garcia shows more decisiveness—cinematography, coverage and editorial are all competently accomplished, but cast direction often wavers, unable to rise above the limitations of the script.

While Kristen Bell’s talent and charisma are clearly evident, she seems adrift with her character, since Leigh has no clear justification for abandoning her city life and career to return home, much less for initiating an affair with the teenage son of her co-worker, clearly putting her newfound job at risk. Lambert manages a believable chemistry with Bell, but can’t summon the appropriate teen swagger for the remainder of the part. The rest of the cast mostly serves to drive inconsequential subplots.

With this perhaps semi-autobiographical film in the can, Connecticut native Garcia may find more consequential alternatives for exercising her considerable talents.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Happy Christmas
Film Review: Happy Christmas

Joe Swanberg's latest feature is a collection of strong individual scenes and performances that never quite finds its statement of purpose. More »

Very Good Girls
Film Review: Very Good Girls

More of a meandering, misguided path than a road to hell, Naomi Foner’s directing debut, starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen as 18-year-old BFFs, is similarly filled with good intentions. More »

The Kill Team
Film Review: The Kill Team

Marine Adam Winfield goes on trial in a case in which U.S. soldiers murdered innocent Afghanis. Strong subject marred by poor narrative choices. More »

The Divine Move
Film Review: The Divine Move

Excessive violence and off-the-wall plotting undermine an intriguing game-based premise. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Hercules
Film Review: Hercules

Legendary strongman is caught in the middle of a brutal civil war in a fast-paced vehicle for Dwayne Johnson. More »

Lucy
Film Review: Lucy

Drugs unleash the full potential of the brain with tragic results in Luc Besson's sci-fi adventure. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here