Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Lifeguard: Movie Review

Quarter-life crisis character study with dramatic depression and comedic maturation.

The Lifeguard is Leigh (Kristen Bell), a 30-year-old girl who quits her job in New York and comes back to Connecticut to try and find herself. It’s a quarter-life crisis character study where our protagonist was successfully able to get past her teen years but stalls when she's unable to embrace adulthood. Leigh is convinced that her life didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to and so she has gone back to her high school life.   2013

Directed by: Liz W. Garcia

Screenplay by: Liz W. Garcia

Starring: Kristen Bell, David Lambert

This includes getting a summer job as a lifeguard, reconnecting with her old friends, hanging out in the parking lot of a convenience store, and falling in love with a high school kid. The whole statutory rape thing (the high school kid Jason (David Lambert) is 16, under the age of consent, and Leigh is 29 years and 10 months old) is just one hint that perhaps this wasn’t the best plan. It’s funny when the local kids insult her at the pool, it’s dramatic when she struggles with the various elements in her life, and it’s just a little stupid when she’s helping the high school kids grow up. What sets this movie slightly above similar films is that it’s a rather mature look at an immature woman. This movie isn't for the faint of heart with rather weighty topics of depression and suicide forming Leigh's coming-of-age story.

While I could have done with less of the “statutory rape romance" (since that was far from Leigh's best decision), the foolish storylines can be forgiven because the movie survives on the dialogue and the characterizations. Leigh represents many women her age and while she might frustrate us with her bad decisions, we always know where she's coming from and mostly handles herself well in the face of real tragedy. Leigh and her old friends, now adults in their own right – Mel (Mamie Gummer) and Todd (Martin Starr), are real and relatable characters. Both of whom are significantly more thought out than any Hollywood movies which have significantly more money.

The production value is low with significantly indie and low-key songs and starkness permeating a tepid atmosphere. It's slow and sullen but since it's also more dramatic than it is comedic, it does establish a fitting tone. The Lifeguard, with its good acting and dialogue, can strike most of the right chords. The rather dramatic themes of depression, drugs, death, and fear weigh it down, but the movie never drowns by showing the maturation of Leigh with a glimmer of hope.

Similar Titles:

Obvious Child (2014) - Surpassing the romantic comedy genre with hilarity.

Laggies (2014) - Comedy and romance and adults growing up.

Veronica Mars (2014) - Pulls you in with the dark comedy stylings of Veronica Mars and her crime-solving ways.

Stuck in Love (2013) - A romantic drama that survives on the empathy for the main characters.

Girl Most Likely (2012) - A girl has lost her way and comes back home with quirky comedy.

See Girl Run (2012) - See girl travel back home and slowly think about changing her depression.