Lifeguard (1976)


Sam Elliott plays an L.A. beach lifeguard who begins to question, at the age of thirty-two, if it might finally be time to put on a shirt and get a ‘real’ job. There’s no question that Sam Elliott has charisma and can carry a movie, and that’s probably the only reason this flick has had any shelf life at all. Lifeguard is decidedly a very laid-back movie with just enough plotting to keep it moving forward. Depending on your movie diet, you may find it either refreshing or boring.

Elliott’s lifestyle seems terrific at first — working outside, occasionally saving lives, giving sage advice to horny teenagers, and bedding wayward stewardesses. But after rekindling an old flame (Anne Archer) at a fifteen-year high school reunion, he’s tempted to give it all up and settle down. An old friend (Stephen Young) offers him a job selling Ferraris and making twice the dough, an offer that Archer insists he take. Meanwhile, Elliott trains a rookie lifeguard (Parker Stevenson) and contends with a smitten 17-year-old (Kathleen Quinlan).

The music is painfully dated, along with some of the sexual mores. The ending feels a bit arbitrary, but that’s probably better than a belabored one in a movie as light as this. Basically, whether or not you should see Lifeguard boils down to just one question: Do you want to hang out with Sam Elliott at the beach, or not?