Poolman -London Film Festival 2023

In centuries to come future scholars/aliens will look at the ravages of our civilisation and be called upon to answer the great questions of our time.  And there is surely no greater pressing question right now than who is the best Chris?

They all have their charms. Hemsworth is a delightful Antipodean with exceptional comic timing. Evans is a soulful character actor cursed with the looks of a matinee idol. Pratt may be the exception to the rule that puff piece interviews and social media accounts are a good thing for actors but no one can deny that Starlord was a perfect match of actor and material.

But I am confident that future scholars/alien overlords will agree that the best Chris is of course Chris Pine. The man is a delight. He skilfully played Captain Kirk in three Star Trek films overcoming dodgy dialogue and weak plot lines with immense charm and verve (we were robbed of the Kelvin timeline film my friends). Pine was phenomenal in Hell or High Water. He came out of Wonder Woman II with his dignity intact which was no mean feat. He laughs uproariously at memes of himself. He came out of spit-gate unscathed if a tad baffled. Pine was brilliant, endearingly heroic and very funny in the recent Dungeons and Dragons film (which you should all go and immediately watch -it’s on Paramount Plus). Best of all he dresses like a sleazy mafioso who has been forced into the witness protection programme and is now pretending to be a gay hairdresser in Florida. His hair is thick and luxurious. Chris Pine take that best Chris mantle and wear it proudly.

Pine now adds to his list of impressive achievements with Poolman -his directorial debut which he also stars in, co-wrote (alongside Ian Gotler) and executive produced. Poolman is a delightfully daffy film noir-Chinatown by way of Dumb & Dumber. It has had mystifyingly unkind vicious reviews and I have no idea why as it’s an absolute delight. Perhaps festival fatigue worked against it but honestly Poolman is huge, warm-hearted silly fun which crucially doesn’t take itself remotely seriously. 

Poolman is like Chris Pine watched The Nice Guys and decided that he really liked its vibe but the script was far too mean and he wanted to make a gentler, kinder version.

In Poolman Pine stars as Darren Bannerman (nicknamed Der Bear by his friends) a civic minded pool man with a passion for local government. Darren is the sort of person that shows up at every town meeting with a list of complaints and a slide show presentation of how things could run better if you just listened to him. Darren has a long suffering girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a supportive best friend (John Ortiz) who Darren frequently chastises for buying coffee from environmentally unfriendly chains and surrogate parents in the form of  Diane, a therapist  (Annette Bening) and Jack (Danny DeVito) a filmmaker who is filming Darren’s civic exploits for a documentary (called eventually “David and Go Lie’th” because this is that sort of movie). Darren writes to his hero Erin Brockovich every day on an old typewriter so he doesn’t feel alone.

Darren’s nemesis is the local councilman  (Stephen Tobolowsky) who is fed up of dealing with Darren’s nonsense. But then one day June Del Ray (DeWanda Wise) sashays into Darren’s life claiming the council man is in nefarious cahoots with a local property developer (Clancy Brown being Clancy Brown) and a dodgy almond farmer (Ray Wise). Darren bless his heart is dumb as a post and doesn’t appreciate that June (in her finest jewel toned femme fatale outfits) is a no good dame and before Darren knows what’s hit him he is caught up in film noir hi-jinx.

Poolman is disarmingly good fun and filled with generous performances. Chris Pine is ridiculously charismatic keeping us fully on board even though the audience is way ahead of his dim bulb character. Darren may be dopey but he’s deeply loveable. Stephen Tobolowsky is superb and gets a truly wonderful scene with Pine where we discover what the council man likes to do in his off time. Similarly DeVito and Bening are fantastic as Darren’s surrogate parents giving generous warm performances. Bening especially is wonderful.

Ignore the bad buzz. Poolman is a delightful comedic film noir with an inspired lead performance from Chris Pine which is destined to become a cult classic.

Poolman screened at the London Film Festival and is being released in the UK by Signature Entertainment.