It’s fine, I’ll admit it. I only watched this because the poster was of Kristen Bell in a swimsuit. Now, before you go thinking I’m some perverted pervert – I like Kristen Bell as an actor – I’ve always liked her performances, even if she has had a knack for appearing in less than good movies. The synopsis sounded interesting enough – a twenty something woman has something of a mid-life crisis and returns to her home town to become a lifeguard in her local town – something simple for a late night watch and maybe a showcase for Bell.
The film isn’t a mess – the performances are solid and it feels like a coming of age film about someone who already came of age. But there are problems – if you’ve seen any Indie, Sundance style dramas in your time then you’ll know what you’re in for – pretentious direction without achieving anything to deserve directing in such a way and the aimless soul-searching of characters you wouldn’t want to meet down a bright alley. We never get to grips with why Bell’s Leigh makes the decision (s) she does – something about a relationship breaking down and not being taken seriously as a journalist, which all leads her to moving back in with her parents, taking a dead-end job, meeting up with her old school friends, and most controversially, beginning a sexual relationship with a minor. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me if the kid was 18, or 17, or 21 or whatever, but apparently he is underage. So, we have a love story based around statutory rape, which is rarely a good starting point for a movie which wants us to sympathize with the rapist.
But putting that aside, it feels like a Gen X slacker movie – a sub genre I have a lot of fondness for, but without any of the authenticity, emotion or humour I would expect. It drifts along from A to B, ending as it starts with resolutions made but little learned. The director has the gall to film numerous scenes like a music video, complete with the most bland indie rock drivel you could imagine, and it all serves little purpose. There are a couple of decent moments which should have been focal points – one side character kills themselves and while this acts as a catalyst for later events, the actual death feels glossed over and a necessary device to get the film over its major hurdle and over the finish line. It’s a shame because Bell is always and engaging presence and the rest of the cast is peppered with familiar faces doing the best they can. It’s a shame it all amounts to nothing.
Let us know in the comments if you have seen The Lifeguard!