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August 27, 2013

THE LIFEGUARD

LifeguardFive years of unprecedented economic collapse has led many Americans to travel a path similar to Kristen Bell’s 30-year-old character in Liz W. Garcia’s spotty debut feature. Bell plays Leigh, an Associated Press reporter who makes the mistake of sleeping with her boss. Unsure of her place in the meat-grinder of Manhattan, Leigh retreats to her parents’ suburban house in her Connecticut hometown. Picking up where she left off, Leigh gets her old lifeguard job back at the neighborhood pool. She hangs out with her old classmates from high school. Mel (Marnie Gummer) now works as the assistant principal at the local high school. She has boredom and communication issues with her vanilla husband, even if Mel is hardly a rebel to begin with. Leigh’s gay childhood buddy Todd (Martin Starr) is happy to hang out and smoke pot with Leigh as she befriends a couple of teen boys that frequent the pool.

Kristen-Bell

Hooking up with “Little” Jason (David Lambert), the 17-year-old son of the pool maintenance guy, isn’t the smartest move Leigh could make. But she isn’t a great judge of character, or of circumstance, to begin with. Thrown out on the street by her spiteful mother (Amy Madigan), Leigh resorts to sleeping in an unfinished annex to the house. Homelessness takes on a new meaning. Hot sex with Jason might be fleeting, but it fires the non-judgmental nature of a movie that almost works.

Lifeguard

Kristen Bell single-handedly holds the film together with an every-girl appeal that embodies a generation of young people tossed into the cold by a country of greedy bankers and a government without any reliable system of checks and balances. In spite of its ragged edges, “The Lifeguard” captures an essence of alienation in America whose future resembles a dark abyss, rather than anything bright.

Rated R. mins. (C) (Two Stars - out of five/no halves)

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