Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lifeguard (1976)

Based on its title alone, to say nothing of the film’s wretched poster, Lifeguard should be a sleazy sex comedy. But instead, it’s a somewhat well-observed character piece about an iconoclastic man wrestling with other people’s perceptions of his prolonged-adolescent lifestyle. Sam Elliot, his signature sweet ’stache already firmly secured on his upper lip, plays Rick, an L.A. lifeguard in his 30s, making him a good ten years older than most of the other dudes running up and down Southern California’s beaches in little red shorts. Over the course of one summer, he trains a young apprentice (Parker Stevenson), dallies with a precocious teenager (Kathleen Quinlan), tries to rekindle an old spark with his high-school girlfriend (Anne Archer), and listens to family and friends who say it’s time to put away the SPF and get a real job. There’s a touch of raunchiness here and there (sexy flings at Rick’s bachelor pad, pervy teenage boys chasing busty women at the beach), but Ron Koslow’s competent script mostly focuses on Rick’s sun-kissed ennui, manifesting in solid scenes like the vignette of the protagonist getting his aging ass kicked by younger lifeguards in a running/swimming race. Rest assured there’s a kitsch factor (two words: theme song), and Rick’s I-gottta-be-me attitude is pretty damn ’70s, so it’s not as if Lifeguard takes the high road at every step, but like its title character, the movie displays unexpected depth. Koslow, by the way, later wrote the charmingly weird comedy Into the Night (1984) and created the supernatural series Beauty and the Beast and Moonlight.

Lifeguard: FUNKY


Tommy Ross said...

This movie is a great slice of 70's-o-rama and despite some of it's cheese factor, the ever-charismatic Sam Elliott truly shines in his part, you will not be able to take your eyes off him.

Gerald Beaver said...

i thought this was just going to be a slice of beefcake but i as a man in my middle ages, i could relate to his character and i still reflect upon what i saw. pretty deep for a movie that was shown at the drive in.