Reviewed by: Donald Munro

"The only mystery is why anyone would stay to the end of Poolman." | Photo: courtesy of Signature Entertainment

Poolman is an empty film.

Darren Barrenman (Chris Pine) is an emotionally stunted man with a short attention span and a bee in his bonnet: conspiracy theories concerning local government planning decisions. Its a premise that could draw you in to watching a quirky comedy mystery. The only mystery is why anyone would stay to the end of Poolman. When he is not cleaning the single small pool outside of a block of condos, 'DB' is making a nuisance of himself petitioning council meetings over planning, public transport and reptoid involvement. About halfway through the film he is approached by an enigmatic woman with a proposal.

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June Del Rey puts in a good performance as the femme fatale DeWanda Wise: alluring and dangerous. A subtle and knowing performance by Jennifer Jason Leigh as Susan Kerkovich, Barrenman's girlfriend, along with the two small supports by Clancy Brown and Ray Wise, only shows up how bad the rest of the film is. The script the actors are working from is poor. For the most part the dialogue is made up of uninspiring single clause sentences. It's often disjointed and clumsy. Think of a eight-year-old school kid's essay, What I Did On My Holidays. When it comes to the characters in the film, they are all emotionally self serving. You can't care about them when they only care about themselves and have nothing interesting or complex to say. Danny DeVito's Jack Denisoff is flitting around all over the set, talking, basically to himself, splitting the focus like the second subject in a badly composed holiday snap.

As a visual composition, Poolman looks awful. During the first half of the film there is a lot of blown out white space. At first you would think that there might be some intentionality to this, some pretence at framing, but that does not make sense, and all the highlights are blown out as well. Sometimes your eye is drawn to those blown out highlights off in the corner of the screen. It's just ugly. After about an hour into the film, after the underdeveloped plot has finally started, there are night scenes and dark interiors with lush oversaturated colours and vintage styling. It's like a TV advert for a film noir theme bar that doesn't really understand the genre. This is where the Chinatown references start being laid on thick. Chinatown, I seem to remember, had a much more muted colour palette in comparison. The counterpoint of overexposed amateurism versus pseudo noir is a cinematic metaphor for what?

What could make things worse, a couple of sub-Lynchian dream sequences or a Deus Ex Machina for the happily ever after ending? Spoiler, sorry.

Reviewed on: 28 Jun 2024
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Poolman packshot
A hapless dreamer and would-be philosopher spends his days looking after the pool of the Tahitian Tiki apartment block in sunny LA. When he uncovers a water heist, he does what he can to protect the city.

Director: Chris Pine

Writer: Ian Gotler, Chris Pine

Starring: Chris Pine, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Danny DeVito, Annette Bening, DeWanda Wise

Year: 2023

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: US

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