Photo courtesy of John Peters

Finally, a movie that REALLY showcases Kristen Bell’s acting chops. Bell displays a broad range of emotions which she can turn on with just a facial expression while driving.

In The Lifeguard, she plays Leigh, a 29-year-old Associated Press reporter who quits her life in NYC to move in with mom and dad. And just like high school, she gets a job as a lifeguard and hangs out with old friends Mel (Mamie Gummer) and Todd (Martin Starr). Leigh smokes pot, goes reckless driving and befriends a group of skateboarders.

Reliving youth goes too far, especially for many in the theater, when Leigh starts a new relationship. We don't want to give it away here, but writer/director Liz Garcia says she made it happen because both characters were on the same emotional level. When you think about it that way, it makes sense. And if you're still uncomfortable, you’re not alone, since one character is even more disturbed by it. The question you’re asking all through the film is "When is Leigh's adult life going catch up to her?" It sends a strong message to all of us who wish we could quit our jobs and be free of our self-made traps.

Garcia was actually a lifeguard as a teen, which served as inspiration. “And I loved every moment by the pool, being lazy,” she says. You’ll also notice that Leigh loves cats, which is another trait Garcia shares with her. Garcia's husband Joshua Harto plays Mel's husband John in the movie. “To have your wife directing you to take your pants off in front of another woman is unusual,” he jokes.

One of the most important roles is Little Jason (David Lambert), which was the only one cast with a conventional audition. Garcia says the 18-year-old actor has the right look, and at different angles, could appear older or younger than he is. Lambert gave a great performance in this film.

The music, composed by Fred Avril, really sets the tone during tense, disturbing scenes. But it’s not all drama. The photography throughout the film is incredible, as hang outs, memories and even the sky is captured through an almost nostalgic lens. It's also witty. When Leigh arrives at her parents’ home, her mother tells her “If you’re going to stay here, you have to contribute.” Leigh replies, “To what?” When Leigh’s friend Mel says she’s trying to get pregnant, Leigh replies, “Like … with a human baby?”

One problem is you don’t see much of the life Leigh leaves behind, just that she is in a relationship headed south and covers an emotionally-challenging news story. But her reasons for leaving don't seem to add up, at least not enough to give up and move home.

Still, it's a great drama. And even though it might not seem like it, the scene in the photo above is just as drama in the movie reaches an all-time high.

Upcoming screenings

Jan. 21, 8:30 p.m.
The MARC, Park City

Jan. 24, 9 p.m.
Temple Theatre, Park City

Jan. 25, 3:15 p.m.
Eccles Theatre, Park City