‘The Lifeguard’ Movie Review – No Joy Ride
It’s really easy to say a movie is predictable because…well, almost all movies are predictable. Certain genres have it worse, too, because romantic comedies, dramedies, or whatever, usually have a degree of built-in predictability. The task then becomes making the ride worth it. Plenty of movies with “conventional endings” still become successful, some because of writing, performances, and so forth, and others simply because of the joy of watching it all come together. Liz W. Garcia’s The Lifeguard doesn’t really fit into any of these adjectives or descriptions. Although it can be categorized as a dramedy, it’s not overly funny, but most importantly, “the ride” doesn’t really seem worth it. It’s not joyous, and despite a few wrinkles in the third act, it comes together, apart, and to a conclusion just as one would expect with the angst of the main teenage characters.
Starring Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), the movie starts with a very unhappy 29/almost 30 Associated Press writer in New York City. Unhappy in her relationship and job situation, she up and leaves back to her hometown in Connecticut. Instead of carrying on her professional hopes and dreams, she decides to go back to work as a lifeguard at the local pool.
While back in town, she reconnects with some of her old friends, including a not-so-closeted gay man (Martin Starr) and a struggling wannabe mother (Mamie Gummer). Most importantly, she connects with a local 16-year-old (David Lambert) who is going through his own struggles. What starts as a movie about moving home turns into a movie preaching the midlife crisis and trying to find a new direction when growing older.
Midlife crises appear to be the “go-to” nowadays. The Lifeguard probably noticed this early on and realized they needed a simultaneous coming-of-age component. Still, the movie was ham-fisted both when it came to showing the “older” struggles and when developing the inevitable romance.
Ah…the romance. Even if you take out Lambert’s obvious age discrepancy (it’s hard to make a 20-year-old look like a 16-year-old), his character isn’t easily believable. Part of the appeal is that he’s “different,” but there’s not a whole lot to make him actually seem like a sophomore…or a struggling one for that matter.
I hammered the film earlier for seeming a little too predictable, so it seems a little wrong to complain about the one twist they tried. However, upon the reveal (which I’ll obviously keep to myself), it seemed almost like the emotional equivalent to a “cash grab,” neither feeling needed or earned. Rather…it felt contrived, like it was sitting in their back pocket the entire time.
I’ve managed to avoid a single praise for The Lifeguard so far. It’s far more drama than anything, but gets the “comedy” tag just because it has an uplifting song playing in an uplifting final montage. There I go again, bashing the movie. Anyway, the movie suffers from pedestrian plot progression – which is something it certainly needed most – that doesn’t get a lot of supporting help. Despite a few decent set-ups, the gimmicks override everything.
The Lifeguard releases this weekend. It was previously available on Video On Demand, so there are a few different options.
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