Grab your floaties and stay out of the deep end because Vertical has acquired the U.S. rights to AGC Studios‘ Poolman, the absurdist comedy and Chris Pine’s directorial debut! The comedic caper premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival 2023, where audiences experienced Pine’s first time behind a camera for a feature-length film.
Joining Pine in Poolman are Annette Bening (American Beauty, Captain Marvel), Danny DeVito (Death to Smoochy, Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Fargo, The Hateful Eight), and DeWanda Wise (Jurassic World: Dominion, The Harder They Fall). In addition to directing, Pine co-wrote the script with Ian Gotler (The Doula). The duo also produced the film alongside Stacey Sher (Erin Brockovich) and Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman).
Poolman “tells the story of Darren Barrenman (Pine), a native Los Angeleno who spends his days looking after the pool of the Tahitian Tiki apartment block and fighting to make his hometown a better place to live,” reads the official description. “When he is tasked by a femme fatale to uncover the truth behind a shady business deal, Darren enlists the help of his friends to take on a corrupt politician and a greedy land developer. His investigation reveals a hidden truth about his beloved city and himself.”
Awkwardly, Poolman mainly received negative reviews after its TIFF premiere. While some were delighted with the film’s unique approach to mystery and quirk, our managing editor, Chris Bumbray, found it lacking. One of his chief criticisms is how Pine swallows the film’s spotlight.
“What’s especially grating about Poolman is how self-satisfied it is. Pine had built the entire movie around himself, with none of the supporting cast ever really getting a chance to shine. None of them, not even the always reliable DeVito and Bening, make an impression, with only Wise somehow walking away looking good as she suits the femme fatale role,” Bumbray wrote. “Technically, the film is impeccable, with Pine shooting the movie on 35mm with his Wonder Woman DP Matthew Jensen (Patty Jenkins is a producer). But as pretty as it looks, sitting through 100 minutes of Pine doing desperately unfunny schtick becomes a chore.”
Regardless of mixed reactions to the film, Vertical is excited about bringing the film to a wider audience. Poolman comes to U.S. theaters in 2024, where others could find an odd charm in Pine’s first plunge into directing a feature.