Release: Out now (in theaters and on demand)
Director: Liz W. Garcia
Cast: Kristen Bell, Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, David Lambert, Amy Madigan
TV scribe Liz Garcia’s directorial debut veers easily towards pat construction and obvious cues (particularly with regards to the copious alt/pop college radio soundtrack songs). But it’s an insightful character study, focusing on a pushing-30 New Yorker (Kristen Bell) who flees her premature malaise in the city to return home, resume her old job, and act like a compulsive teenager — complete with a reckless sexual relationship with a teenage boy. Bell turns in a good, heartfelt, true performance, wearing the wounds or premature disappointment well, and Garcia vividly pinpoints how such a meltdown would make her a “bad influence” on her seemingly stable old friends (particularly BFF Mamie Gummer, very good). The Lifeguard meanders a bit (the subplot with Gummer’s husband is a big dud), but it’s got a quiet, low-key, hanging-out vibe, and is a rare film that manages to capture, at least briefly, Bell’s considerable charisma.