I’ve been a Sam Elliott fan for a long time. He’s been a highlight of the generally dismal history of Western movies over the past thirty years. For those of you who have read my novels in the ABILENE series, I always pictured Elliott as the hero of that series, Marshal Luke Travis.
However, the first Sam Elliott movie I ever saw wasn’t a Western. It was LIFEGUARD, a quiet little drama about a guy who’s, well, a lifeguard. Elliott plays a character who’s in his mid-30s but still working as a lifeguard on the beach in Los Angeles, even though his friends and family think he ought to grow up and get a real job. He starts to consider it when meets a woman he likes (the beautiful Anne Archer), but at the same time, a younger woman he meets on the beach (the equally beautiful Kathleen Quinlan) is attracted to him despite the difference in their ages, and he keeps being drawn back to her.
That’s pretty much all of the plot, as I remember it (been a while since I’ve seen this one), Elliott trying to choose between Quinlan and the beach or Archer and a more so-called normal life. But the movie is so well-written and well-acted that it remains compelling all the way through, and the scenery, which is somewhat wintery and gloomy despite the beach setting, is beautifully photographed.
If you haven’t seen this one, it’s well worth watching. It’s very much of its time and really has that Seventies feel to it. Which, for those of us who were there, isn’t a bad thing.