DVD Review: The Lifeguard

The Lifeguard DVDSTUDIO: Screen Media | DIRECTOR: Liz W. Garcia | CAST: Kristen Bell, Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, Alex Shaffer, Amy Madigan, David Lambert
DVD RELEASE DATE: 10/8/2013 | PRICE: DVD $24.98
SPECS: R | 90 min. | Drama romance | widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall


Writer/director Liz W. Garcia’s debut feature is called The Lifeguard because it’s about a girl named Leigh who gets a job as a lifeguard, but a better title would have been Spoiled Rich White Girl Problems, since the entire movie is drenched with uninteresting, whiny characters lacking the slightest morsel of self-awareness or likability. On the other hand, you do get to watch Kristen Bell (Couples Retreat) in a red bathing suit for half the film, which is clearly one of the reasons the film made into production in the first place.

The Lifeguard movie scene

Kristen Bell dons her red swimsuit in The Lifeguard.

The Lifeguard starts off with a montage of Leigh in her fast-paced, NYC lifestyle that every power-hungry college grad dreams of. In just a couple of minutes, you learn she’s a journalist having an affair with her soon-to-be-married boss, and has written an article (about an abused pet tiger) that no one but she recognizes as being brilliant. When she realizes that said boss is actually going through with the engagement (as opposed to choosing cute little Leigh) she finds herself thrust into a real midlife crisis, one that sends our pained heroine back to the safety of her rich Connecticut home town. Never mind that she’s only 29 and gainfully employed in her career of choice- we’re talking big-time problems here.

The rest of the movie plays out like a laughable teen drama as Leigh regresses into “crazy adolescent behavior” like getting high with her high school pals (who are also wrestling with their own, equally-trite premature midlife crises.) The dialogue is pedestrian, the characters bland, and nothing important is at stake. Given that the film’s director graduated from Wesleyan University before going on to write episodes of Dawson’s Creek, I’m thinking that The Lifeguard is basically an indulgent, wish-fulfillment fantasy for Ms. Garcia, with Kristen Bell as her alter-ego—a fantasy that includes a steamy summer fling with a cute 16-year-old guy (David Lambert) who’s constantly banging you in every possible position and location around town.

But all good things must come to an end, and this movie does, too, but not after the high-school principal learns of her underage affair and threatens Leigh with… nothing—and a pointless teen suicide is thrown in for good measure. Leigh hightails it back to the big city, pausing only for a tearful reconciliation with mom and a patronizing goodbye kiss on her confused boy-toy’s forehead. Gotta go back to my big fancy job, good luck with life, and sorry about your friend dying!

The best part has got to be the final moment of the film, a profile shot of Leigh driving home. Right at the last second, she turns and stares directly into the camera- and then the film cuts to black. Deep! It’s basically The 400 Blows minus a couple of minor details like content and meaning.

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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.