A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Lifeguard is about an unhappy 29-year-old New York reporter (Kristen Bell) who chucks it all to move back in with her parents in her sleepy Connecticut hometown. Soon, she's hanging out with her high school pals in the same old parking lot, and it's not long before she becomes involved with a high school boy who's just slightly more than half her age. There are several explicit sex scenes (including one in which a man's genitals are seen), as well as frequent swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and more), and lots of drinking and pot smoking.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Leigh (Kristen Bell) is a New York journalist who's spinning her wheels at work and dismayed to realize that her boyfriend/boss has just become engaged to someone else. So she chucks it all and gets out of town, moving back in with her parents in her suburban hometown and getting back in touch with her high school pals (Mamie Gummer and Martin Starr). Soon she's got her high-school job back, too, as THE LIFEGUARD at a local condo complex, where she falls for Jason (David Lambert), a 16-year-old who's thinking about dropping out of school. Leigh is trying to recapture a carefree life without responsibilities or expectations, but getting involved with a minor may not be her best decision in a summer filled with poor choices.
Is it any good?
The best thing that can be said about The Lifeguard is that Bell turns in what may be one of her strongest performances. As Leigh, she seethes with despair and confusion, which lends the movie a whiff of authenticity. (Gummer is pretty fantastic, too.)
But her starring role isn't enough to rescue the movie from drowning in a pool of obviousness and a complete disregard for tone. Yes, Leigh is lost; yes, she's paralyzed. But it's a pretty big leap to expect the audience to cheer her on when her way out includes a perplexing (and cringe-inducing) relationship. Malaise is a rich field to mine in movies, but only if a filmmaker knows how to make it relatable or interesting -- and hopefully both. Leigh's struggles are unfortunately neither.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie depicts drinking and drug use. What role do they play in Leigh/her friends' life? Are their consequences? Are they realistic?
How does Leigh's arrival in her hometown affect the other people around her, including her mother and her old friends? Is it true that "you can't go home again"?
What do you think about Leigh and Jason's relationship? What draws them together? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
- In theaters: August 30, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: October 8, 2013
- Cast: David Lambert, Kristen Bell, Mamie Gummer
- Director: Liz W. Garcia
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong sexuality, brief graphic nudity, drug use, language and a disturbing image - some involving teens
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love romance
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch