The Lifeguard (2013)

Amber Alert! A Journey into Pedophilia Roman Polanski Would Surely Love!

Ultimately, I finished watching The Lifeguard, and I am a worse person for it.

On the cusp of turning 30, Leigh (Kristen Bell) is dissatisfied with her life in New York as a reporter for the Associated Press and mistress to her engaged boss. She quits her job and moves back home to a small town in Connecticut.  Having been valedictorian, Leigh once felt happy and satisfied there.  She hopes to capture some of her youthful exuberance, once full of expectations and prepared to challenge the world. But at 29 (yes, nearly 30), she feels beaten by the world.

Ultimately, I finished watching The Lifeguard, and I am a worse person for it.

 

Leigh finds a job as a lifeguard, making near minimum wage and attempting to reconnect with the self of her youth. She also rekindles relationships with high school friends Mel (Mamie Gummer) and Todd (Martin Starr). The three begin hanging out with a trio of 16-year-old boys, buying them beer in exchange for marijuana. To make things worse, Mel is the assistant principal where the boys go to school.  Pushing the envelope a little further, Leigh embarks on a relationship with one of the boys, Little Jason (David Lambert).

The Lifeguard
Director
Liz W. Garcia
Cast
Kristen Bell, Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr
Release Date
30 August 2013
Influx Grade: F

At its heart, The Lifeguard, makes an attempt to address the very real issues of adults discovering that life isn't what they had expected as they find themselves turning 30 and into a "real adult." In our 20s, we are allowed some mistakes and indiscretions that can still be chalked up to youthful inexperience. In our 30s we become lost and wayward if we make these same mistakes.

And here is Leigh, wondering how much of her life has been a mistake or misguided. In attempt to reclaim her innocence, she partakes on a journey to take and shatter the innocence of Little Jason, a very troubled teen on a path of self-destruction. Leigh comes along and helps him down this path, all the while whispering words of encouragement in his ear.

Director/writer Liz W. Garcia tries to disguise this as a love story, presenting the relationship between Leigh and Little Jason as one of two uniquely compatible people (I believe this was the same defense used by Mary Kay Letourneau before spending seven years in prison).

  • Barsuglia Photography

Garcia also does not hold back on showing the physicality and sexual nature of the relationship between Leigh and Little Jason. There is an orgy of sex between the two. Remember, now, she is 29 and he is 16.

The Lifeguard attempts to create a touching relationship between two human beings, but really, I cannot get beyond the fact that this is an adult touching a child, over and over. These are the relationships that destroy lives, ruin careers and bankrupt churches, but Garcia wants us to be OK with it, because they are in love.

The stronger the relationship between Leigh and Little Jason becomes, the more difficult this film becomes to watch.

"I'm allowed to be confused and stumble once in a while," whines Leigh to her mother who discovers her relationship with Little Jason. But Leigh's stumbling should come at a much greater cost than it does in The Lifeguard. Sure, not all of the characters condone what is happening between adult and child, but director Garcia seems to ultimately champion the desire Leigh and Little Jason have for one another.

But, hey, Garcia is creating art -- sounds like a good time to make a stab at Roman Polanski, a real life director who admittedly engaged in a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old and cannot come back to the U.S. without standing trial. But, I digress (not to the degree of Polanski or Garcia), but still, I digress.

"I'm fine, it's not like she raped me or anything," says Little Jason as the truth starts to be revealed, and still, once exposed, they continue their relationship. And according to Connecticut state law, the relationship between Leigh and Little Jason is very clearly one of statutory rape. Yes, Jason, she did rape you. By law, Leigh is an adult, and Little Jason is a child.

This could have easily been avoided. Garcia, who also wrote the film, could have easily made Little Jason an 18-year-old, young adult of legal age, still in high school even, and in a relationship with an older woman. It would have been controversial and inappropriate, but not one based on the raping of a child.

And, all things considered, this would have been a very good movie. However, its basic premise is one that condones, and to some degree, encourages sexual predators to pursue their victims if love is involved.

The director, Garcia, clearly knew what she was doing and was knowingly attempting to create a film that might spark debate embroiled in controversy. Instead, The Lifeguard has been buried into the world of on demand video.

And when Little Jason's dad discovers the relationship? His response is this: This thing with the lifeguard ... things happen. Keep moving or die.

Like Polanski, Garcia, appears to be a fine, capable and very artistic filmmaker, but I hope she is sincerely less like Polanski than this movie would indicate.

If not, I'm sure an Oscar is in her future.

I just threw up [to quote Rock of Ages]. In my pants ... out of my ass.

 

Review by Gordon Shelly, special to Influx Magazine

3 Week Diet

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