Poolman movie review & film summary (2024)

No, the film is weird in the sense of “Can anyone but Chris Pine truly appreciate this?” I’m not asking that question because I disliked “Poolman.” I thought it was sweet and fun, and once I settled into it and latched into its wavelength, I laughed a lot, even though it does start to wear out its welcome towards the end because so much of it is dependent upon exploring the emotional interior of the kind of guy you’d be happy to chat with at a bus stop but wouldn’t want to sit next to. You don’t throw yourself into a project like “Poolman” unless you have a burning urge to do it, but that urge doesn’t always communicate itself.   

The movie has been repeatedly compared to “The Big Lebowski” and other films in that spoof-of-LA-noir vein; I suppose there are superficial similarities. But it reminded me more of an unpolished answer to something like Jim Jarmusch’s Nicecore classic “Paterson,” which is about a New Jersey bus driver who writes poetry and loves his girlfriend. In its choice of hero and its hermetically sealed Something Old/Something New style, it is also (bizarrely at times) a kind-hearted mirror of “Taxi Driver” (instead of writing in a journal, Darren writes old fashioned letters on a typewriter to Erin Brockovich–the real crusading legal investigator, not Julia Roberts, who played Brockovich in the Oscar-winning movie). 

This is the kind of film where the hero makes origami figurines and gives them to others to convey messages or feelings, and where one of the baddies tells the hero, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known god.” It’s the kind of movie where, during a confrontation, one antagonist suddenly slumps with his head down and says, “I’ve had a hard week” and the other replies “Me, too” and they end up hugging. It’s the kind of movie where a stakeout consists of five people hiding in plain sight from the people that they are surveilling, who make direct eye contact with them, and one of the stakeout participants is reading Karl Ove Knausgård’s “My Struggle” and suddenly begins to recite a passage from it and looks right into the camera as she does it. There’s also a dream sequence with a lizard whose voice is provided by Pine’s dad Robert Pine, who became a star on the American TV cop show “CHiPs.”