So entrenched is the notion that turning 30 is the new life-altering threshold that such crises hardly seem to need plausible narrative cause anymore. In writer-director Liz W. Garcia’s debut, her heroine, Leigh (Kristen Bell), relinquishes her full-time gig as an Associated Press reporter and flees New York because her fuck-buddy editor has become engaged and the metaphorical implications of an assignment—a wild tiger confined to a tiny apartment—prove way too self-indulgently relatable. So the onetime valedictorian moves back into her parents’ house in Ridgefield, Connecticut, retaking her old job as lifeguard at a local pool and reconnecting with high-school buddies (Mamie Gummer and Martin Starr) who have issues of their own (marital stress, closeted gayness, etc).
Filthy with enough indie-pop music cues to make Zach Braff blush, The Lifeguard is somewhat enlivened when Leigh embarks on an affair with a 16-year-old (David Lambert), whose Jonas-grade gorgeousness makes him unconvincing as a bad-boy screwup but quite persuasive as a common-sense–conquering colt. Otherwise, this drama is as listless and self-regarding as its protagonist, flitting among underdeveloped characters and subplots and indulging in rote emo shots by the pool, yet never figuring out how to dive into the deep end.
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