Chris Pine’s “Poolman” needs a savior

Editor’s note: Vanyaland film editor Nick Johnston is back in Canada all week to cover the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. We wish we were there with him! Check out our continuing coverage of TIFF 2023, read our official preview, and visit our full archives of past editions.

Well, as I wrote in my TIFF preview, regardless of whether that’s possible Pole man, Chris Pine’s directorial debut was a good one, but it will be a memorable occasion. And it was! It was memorable enough for half the audience to decide, midway through, that what they’d seen so far would stick with them longer than they wanted, so they left, safe in the knowledge that they’d seen enough. It was memorable enough for those who kept laughing and jeering in equal measure for the rest of the film’s running time. Pole man It even prompted some would-be comedians to deliver punchlines to the audience to see if they could steal some attention from Payne and his team. Stacked The cast’s on-screen antics, along with the bitter silence that follows, remind us all that just because you can conform to standards in the shower, doesn’t mean you’re ready for Broadway.

But it’s even weirder that a journalism and industry showcase at TIFF is turning into a dossier reftrax A comedy show without the complementary laughs is what it really is Pole man Not badly directed. Payne and his crew do a good job of making things happen on screen: it’s competently edited, well-lit, well-shot, has solid production design, and features enough glimpses of good performances among the group that pop up every now and then to remind you just how skilled all of these guys are. truly. The problem isn’t the cast – Annette Bening, Danny DeVito, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Ortiz, Stephen Tobolowsky, and Pine himself. could They gave a good performance, even with the characters they were given. The problem is the script, which is so terrible that it’s a wonder it got anywhere after development.

Then again, it’s not really that surprising. Who’s going to say no to Chris Pine (credited as co-writer) offering a neo-noir comedic twist Chinatownespecially when these names are accompanied by and Wonder Woman Director Patty Jenkins in one of the producers’ chairs? In the age of streaming, accountability is an afterthought — sure, being accountable to your writers and actors is one thing (and good for Payne for sticking to his guns here and not coming to Toronto), but being accountable to your viewers is another thing, and off that horse The stable once people started counting a movie as “watched” if they watched it for 45 seconds. Moreover, even C-tier services need content, and what better way to attract new viewers to Peacock Ultra-Magnum (list spoilers for your enjoyment) than with a new Chris Pine movie? It couldn’t be worse Wonder Woman 1984Is it enough?

Pole man He is.

Its story sounds like someone watched the trailers Inherent vice They got halfway through the Wikipedia page for Pynchon’s book before realizing that their copy was from Matthew McConaughy’s book Surfer, dude It was already past due at the library. Pine plays D.B., a local porter who lives in a moving truck in front of a hotel pool — where the maintenance and cleaning of said pool represents the slowly draining emotional connection of his life — and who regularly raises before the Los Angeles City Council about preserving Los Angeles’ slowly disappearing heritage. . He has two main enemies, a real estate developer (Clancy Brown) and a council president (Tobolowsky), who he assumes are teaming up to try to destroy his neighborhood. His girlfriend (Lee) is in a relationship with his best friend (Ortiz), and he’s so preoccupied with things that he doesn’t notice her messing around. His therapist (Benning) is upset that her husband (DeVito) is wasting his time producing a documentary with DW instead of getting a job directing sitcoms. But then a woman – the President’s assistant (DeWanda Wise) – walks into his pool area one day and seems to confirm his suspicions, sending this gang of goons on a quest to take them down.

What follows is a stress test of an individual’s patience that ranks on the government services frustration scale somewhere between a DMV visit and a zoning board hearing. What Chinatown It seems like it needed five comedic characters vying for each other’s voices at various points. This is an orgy of cacophony, with the group looking only for that part that will laugh and fall into hysterics rather than any written support. It’s very difficult to make a film with this reference without devolving into parody, and it turns out that a much better version of this film was made, as fate would have it, from the bones of the proposed script for a third installment. Chinatown film. that was Who Framed Roger Rabbit?which does ChinatownPlot style without mentioning Jake Gittes directly once. Then there are the dream sequences, where DB catches some threads of memory that he can’t seem to fully remember, which are intended to serve as a setup for an emotional resolution at the end of the film but actually provide the viewer with the knowledge that they could have been watching Big Lebowski For the hundredth time at home and probably more entertaining and fulfilling.

As the film heads toward its conclusion — Payne mistakes the plot of Polanski’s deliberately paced film for subtlety-free padding — it begins to attempt to slip from comedy into meaning-making, as motivational poster phrases and long-winded phrases attempt quotations from the book Scandinavians who once imparted knowledge to the viewer. This is exactly the place Pole man The audience lost. It’s one thing to watch a bad movie and another to watch a bad speech, and the script here manages to take the worst traits from both. Tobolowsky and Payne do some great work in the film’s climax, and for a second, it becomes clear what a decent version of this film would look like. This was almost immediately undone by lines from Pullman’s Soul Chicken Soup What follows is one of the most bizarre location-defying events I think I’ve ever seen in a movie with a cast of this pedigree as if the ban never occurred to anyone when setting it up. Let me say that the last type of error is not particularly present in Pole manBut its presence in the middle of the first makes it stand out.

I hope the bad press – including my review – doesn’t stop Payne from directing another film because he might do something interesting if the right project for him comes along, and the skill is there. But I hope he finds another writer, as he spent two hours with Pole man The trust in the brain was more than enough to last a lifetime.

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