Poolman review – Chris Pine makes splash of totally wrong kind in shambolic stoner comedy

Estimated read time 2 min read

Chris Pine is usually a likable screen presence but he’s let down here by a flimsy script and over-indulgent direction – which could have something to do with the co-screenwriter (Chris Pine) and the first-time director (er, Chris Pine). You can see what he was going for: a knockabout stoner neo-noir paying homage to old-school Los Angeles, but this is more like Chinatown without the savagery, or Inherent Vice without the brains, or The Big Lebowski without the drugs.

Pine’s character is very much a watered-down version of Jeff Bridges’ Dude (the strongest thing he consumes is an egg cream mocktail). He’s a shaggy, aimless slacker who lives in a trailer next to the apartment-complex pool he tends with zen-like focus. As his character name, Darren Barrenman, forewarns, he’s little more than a collection of quirks: he makes origami gifts; meditates underwater at the bottom of his pool; types soul-baring letters to Erin Brockovich. He also dresses in short shorts and a pink blazer, but later seems to have a bottomless dressing-up wardrobe, and regularly campaigns about public transport at the city council with the aid of hand-made dioramas. None of this really makes any sense.

Pine has also roped some big names into his vanity project. Annette Bening and Danny DeVito are his neighbours and sort-of surrogate parents: she’s his Jungian therapist, he’s shooting a documentary on Darren. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays his sort-of girlfriend, who’s also openly sleeping with his best friend (John Ortiz), among others.

Things kick into sluggish motion with the arrival of a femme fatale figure: the impeccably stylish DeWanda Wise, who ropes Darren into some kind of conspiracy plot involving a powerful property developer, the city council and water rights (Chinatown is specifically referenced a number of times), but it’s all so shambolic and theatrically overdone, it’s impossible to take anything seriously. There are rambling conversations that go nowhere, some cartoonish sleuthing, some painfully unfunny comedy, and a plot that manages to be both threadbare and confusing. And Pine the director is clearly so enamoured of Pine the performer, he doesn’t know when to yell “cut!” Like his character, the movie rapidly sinks to the bottom of the pool, and that’s where it should stay.

Source: theguardian.com

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