Directed by Liz W. Garcia
A former valedictorian quits her reporter job in New York and returns to the place she last felt happy: her childhood home in Connecticut. She gets work as a lifeguard and starts a dangerous relationship with a troubled teenager.
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★★★★½ review by Simone on Letterboxd
I have to use a term I hate to use, so let me just get it over with quickly: underrated gem. Kristen Bell doesn’t have to stretch herself too thin in The Lifeguard but her restraint contributes to the film's gravitas. From a distance, the film looks like a shallow character study of a woman in the midst of a quarter life crisis. Up close, it's really hard to judge someone who is brave enough to take a break from her comfortable life as a reporter in New York City in order to find happiness in her hometown in Connecticut. She doesn't care about being liked or accepted. Truly connecting to others and taking control of the narrative of her life are her short term goals.
It actually shares a lot of plot elements with last year's Hello I Must Be Going, the main difference being that this character is a lot harder to like than Melanie Lynsky's. She moves back in with her parents after an article she submitted wasn't given the attention she felt it deserved. She takes an unapproved leave of absence which could result in her termination and sets up a job lifeguarding at the hometown pool. There are many subplots including a teen who is suffering from depression, the difference between how she treats her parents, her closeted gay friend's self-acceptance, and her best friend's stressful experience trying to get pregnant.
The central conflict of the film is an inappropriate relationship she forms with an underage teenage boy who has an old soul. There are many sexual encounters depicted between the two in which there's little questioning of the legality of their actions and just lots of chemistry. The fallout from their relationship was anything but what I expected. I give it up to the writers for subverting audience expectations of how this would end (or at least those like me who felt like we saw the ending coming a mile away). The film doesn't rely on sheer heart or sincerity to tell the story. Instead, it shows the complexity of human emotion through explosive situations and subdued reactions to them. Liz Garcia is an exciting new voice in cinema created by women about women's stories.
★★★½ review by Tiago Cardoso on Letterboxd
It’s hard for everyone to find their way as an adult and to match up their expectations from their youth to what their adult life looks like.
You don’t do a lot of actual lifesaving while you’re a lifeguard at a pool, you don’t do a lot of actual lifesaving while you’re in a existential crisis too.
You cannot stop being Invisible to other people when you still invisible to yourself. Keep moving or die.
★★★½ review by Cohaagen's Heir on Letterboxd
It's interesting to note that every character in this film is dealing with the same problem, regardless of wealth, status, location, age, etc. It hits on a universal part of life - finding your place in life, where you belong, what you're meant to do, and this film explores this theme quite well. The movie is not perfect, but it doesn't have to be.
★★★★½ review by Waht on Letterboxd
At first I thought that this movie was about how grown-up Kristen Bell seems without makeup. It was adorable, depressing (when taken with vodka) and one of those movies you wouldn't mind owning, even though you might not watch it more than two more times. I did love it, though.
Kristen Bell is 29, as the Netflix summary mentioned and her character tells you every 15 minutes. I myself am 28, and I appreciated somebody going to the trouble of writing a movie specifically for and about me.
She goes back home to live with her parents and hang out with her old best friends after presumably being a by-the-book teenager and twenty-something, and gets a few ya-yas out emotionally in a way that deserves a better title and movie poster icon. Not incredibly sentimental, not lame-ass goofy comedy (as it appears re:the poster icon). Honest enough to be cool, but not honest enough to make you cry. I mean you might cry, but I didn't. I was "moved" later, I'd say. I recommend.
★★★½ review by onemarathon on Letterboxd
Judging by the movie's poster art, you might think The Lifeguard is a juvenile sex comedy. Not so. After reading several glowing reviews, I took the chance and was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be a gentle and intelligent drama.
This is a coming-of-age story: first, it is exactly that for the lead teenage boy as he makes a major life decision; and second, it is about the "growing up" process for a few adults who were clinging to their past youth. I believe the main theme here is reaching maturity, at any age. The teen boy seemed to have figured out what he needed and wanted without any help. The adults, on the other hand, required a lot of reassurance, tough love, and soul searching. Hey, we are less fearless as we age.
Not bad at all, and certainly not a predictable cookie-cutter flick. Give 'er a whirl. Satisfying on all levels.
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