BY ASHLEY KOWALEWSKI
Leigh (played by Kristen Bell) is a 29-year-old journalist whose life is not going the way she wanted. She was highschool valedictorian, went to college, worked her ass off–the same old story–but is inexplicably miserable with her life. In an effort to figure her shit out, she decides to move back home and take back her highschool job as a lifeguard, but when she moves back home she realizes her childhood memories aren’t really the same and her friends and family, like her, have changed, honouring the old adage “you can’t go home.”
When she returns home, she finds her parents and some of her old friends (sort of) where she left them, one of them being a married assistant principal at a high school, desperately trying to get pregnant, while Leigh’s mom is trying to run her “Dance Mamas” business (including belly dancing, in case you’re interested), though everyone seems to be dealing with their own problems. While working at the pool, she meets a pot-smoking, skateboard-wielding teenage boy and becomes involved in a highly inappropriate (though, admittedly, very refreshing and honest) relationship with him.
Coming-of-age movies are always interesting to watch because not only do they show that someone else might be going through a similar (or worse!) situation than you, but what of the people who are already in their career and are supposed to be on the road to marriage, babies, a white picket fence, etc.? Especially in today’s society where so many twenty-somethings are coming out of university or college and have no idea what to do with their lives (or do know what they want to do with their lives, but can’t get a job thanks to the wonderful economy), a coming-of-age tale is welcomed. Sure, today’s batch of twenty-somethings are notorious for being wanderlusters who are stressed and feeling humdrum for no apparent reason other than life isn’t going their way, but sometimes you really just are down on yourself just because and the only way to find yourself is to lose yourself even more.
That’s exactly what The Lifeguard shows us: Sometimes going back to your roots (however different they may be) and clearing your head of all the bullshit that clouds it on a daily basis really is what you need. And sometimes the simple fact of knowing that everyone, everywhere is dealing with their own issues is comforting (not in a sadistic “I’m so happy you’re sad kind of way,” but in an empathetic way). When all else fails, you can always spend a summer poolside drinking with some old friends.
I really enjoyed this movie. It was a little slow and tedious at times, but (sorry to sound super cliché) isn’t that life? It had a seemingly quiet release and sort of snuck under everyone’s radar, but it was very well done and it was nice to see Kristen Bell in something other than a ditzy blonde role. This flick may not be for everyone–perhaps I’m reading way too much into it based on my own coming-of-age tale–or maybe, like me, it’ll become your go-to when you need someone to inconspicuously tell you “It’ll all be okay.”