Friday, September 6, 2013

The Lifeguard

After last year's "Hit and Run" and now "The Lifeguard," we can put an end to the Kristen Bell-as-leading-lady experiment.

She flatlines as Leigh, an about-to-turn-30 reporter for the Associated Press in New York whose romantic life consists of makeout sessions on stairwells with her editor before he hops the subway home to his fiancée. Driven to tears by a story about a man who kept a baby tiger in his apartment (and they made such a fuss about that Daniel Pearl fellow!), she chucks city life and drives to her parents' house in Connecticut, moving back in and soon reclaiming her old job as a lifeguard at the town pool. There she reconnects with her best friends Todd (Martin Starr), still a closet case, and Mel (Mamie Gummer), now a vice principal at their high school. She also befriends some of the teens she's supposed to be protecting, drinking and doping with them after hours and starting a queasy sexual affair with Little Jason (David Lambert). Someone somewhere called "The Lifeguard" a comedy. It is not. Director Liz W. Garcia makes almost no attempt at humor, or anything else, except for a tonal U-turn at the end when Little Jason's friend Matt (Alex Shaffer) is - predictably to everyone but the characters - found to have committed suicide. (Maybe he listened to the incredibly annoying alt-rock soundtrack.) Garcia is actually almost onto something in a scene in which Matt reaches out to Todd for support and Todd responds by making a clumsy pass at him. But she quickly drops it, as if afraid to portray a gay character in anything less than glowing light.

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