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There are a lot of things about my high school days that I enjoyed and that I love revisiting through memories and conversations, but to have gone back to do it all over again a year ago when I was 29 sounds like a pretty terrible idea. Then again, that might sound like a mini-vacation to some people.
People like Leigh, Kristen Bell’s character in the upcoming comedic drama The Lifeguard, which will be the feature debut from director and screenwriter Liz W. Garcia, a former writer for series like Memphis Beat and Cold Case. Neither of those shows scream “introspective female maturation,” so Garcia’s talent goes untold, though the direction in the trailer appears fine. Bell is probably the perfect choice for this role though, as it takes a naturally enjoyable actress to add humanity to a character who would be a supremely bratty bitch if performed by many other actresses. At least if the above trailer, courtesy of iTunes Movie Trailers, is a solid indication.
Leigh’s downward spiral back into arrested development immediately brings to mind two recent movies, though I won’t harshly criticize The Lifeguard for this sight unseen. The first of those is Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, which centered on Charlize Theron’s misguided attempts to reassert herself in her hometown, and the second is Todd Louiso’s 2012 Sundance hit Hello I Must Be Going, which I haven’t seen yet, which follows Melanie Lynskey’s divorcée who moves back in with her parents.
But back to not-quite-30-yet Leigh, whose ideal New York life takes a turn for the worse, and she goes rushing back to her hometown, where she lives with her folks and falls back into her teenage lifestyle. Her best friends are Mel (Mamie Gummer) and Todd (Martin Starr), and her job as a lifeguard is the same she held in high school. Only this time, when she begins having a relationship with a high school boy (David Lambert), it means she’s turned into a total perv.
Honestly, I’ll watch Starr and Bell in anything, but I’m not quite sure how I feel about this flick. I think it has a lot to do with the trailer itself, which flops tonally between comedy and drama without giving a real sense of what Leigh’s stakes are. Obviously she’s stuck in a mental and behavioral rut, but to what end are there any real consequences for her?
Co-starring Oscar nominee Amy Madigan and Josh Finn, The Lifeguard hits theaters on August 30, but you can catch it on VOD on July 30.
As a post-script, I actually did get to relive some of my teenage years through Paulie Litt's haircut, which I kept a longer version of through part of my high school years. (He's the guy on the right.)