Review: Kristen Bell buoys ‘The Lifeguard’
Strong turns by Kristen Bell and an able supporting cast propel the slight but immersive drama “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.
Needing a “timeout” from her stressful Manhattan life, disillusioned AP reporter Leigh (Bell) returns to her Connecticut hometown, where she moves back in with her bemused parents (Amy Madigan, Adam LeFevre), reconnects with old classmates Mel (Mamie Gummer) and Todd (Martin Starr), and gets back her erstwhile job lifeguarding at a local condo complex’s pool. But no matter how much Leigh parties, hangs out and free floats, at almost 30, she’s not a kid anymore; while evocative for her, it’s just not the same.
What shakes Leigh’s tree, however, is a steamy dalliance that evolves with Jason (David Lambert), an antsy 16-year-old she meets at the pool. Sure, he’s irresistible (the guy is underwear model material), but, more importantly, their affair proves Leigh’s ultimate reconnection to her youth — or at least to feeling young. It’s risky business, of course, even if only high school vice principal Mel, who’s in the midst of her own pre-midlife crisis over babymaking with her cloddish husband (Joshua Harto), is truly freaked out by Leigh’s cradle robbing.
While Garcia could have tightened the film’s pacing, fleshed out the closeted Todd and perhaps bypassed a late-breaking bit of tragedy, “The Lifeguard” is a watchable, emotionally redolent trip down one woman’s memory lane.
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, brief graphic nudity, drug use, language and a disturbing image — some involving teens
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: At Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood
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