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

Food Chains
Film Review: Food Chains

Vitally important, infuriating exposé of the world of injustice behind the food you consume. More »

Monk with a Camera
Film Review: Monk With a Camera: The Life and Journey of Nicholas Vreeland

Enthralling and uplifting documentary about a man of the world turned monk, but one who effects real, inspiring change. More »

The Circle
Film Review: The Circle

Very strong, historically intriguing and important gay document is marred by intrusive real-life interview footage, which seriously breaks up the dramatic momentum. More »

babadook
Film Review: The Babadook

An intense, terrifying indie horror film with more on its mind than scaring its audience. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Hunger Games - Mockingjay Pt 1
Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Darker, less action-packed first half of the final installment of the popular franchise moves from arenas to rubble aplenty as Jennifer Lawrence’s super-heroine is called upon to serve her beleaguered and much-destroyed nation as propaganda instrument and leader. Fans of the books and previous two films get a less flashy palette here, but the engaging characters and strong story return to stir interest for the scheduled November 2015 finale. More »

Foxcatcher review
Film Review: Foxcatcher

Character is destiny in this masterfully controlled true-crime sports drama that will likely catapult Steve Carell into the Oscar race. 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