Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
THE POOL MOVIE REVIEW
Directed by: Chris Smith
Running time: 95 minutes
Release date: September 3, 2008
Genre: Drama and Adaptation (In English & Hindi with English subtitles)
Distributor: Vitagraph Films
MPAA Rating: Not rated
The Pool is a cultural class portrait of a young man coming of age under adverse conditions. This film is based on Randy Russell's short story by the same title dealing the everyday problems of working and getting ahead in life. As in movies that are written and directed by Chris Smith such as American Movie ( a 1999 comedic documentary about a Midwestern filmmaker's effort to make an independent film) and The Yes Men (another spoof about anti-corporate activist pranksters setting up a website while impersonating and targeting the World Trade Organization) The Pool is a neorealistic tale. However, this time Chris Smith sets his movie in India.
India is a little out of step with Smith's typical location settings of the Midwest. He was recently honored with a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art entitled "Chris Smith: American Original". The tagline on this movie is "A Contemporary Fable Set in Goa by American Director Chris Smith." The theme focuses on the sympathies of working people. Smith seems to be comfortable filming people regardless of country. In this case, the people are from Goa, India not the midwest U.S.A.
The lead character in the film, Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chavan), is an 18 year old illiterate young man who scrubs floors and delivers cups of chai in a hotel. He has an 11 year old friend Jhangir (Jhangir Badshah) who hustles plastic bags to tourists. Both Venkatest and Jhangir are looking for a better life- they want the sort of life that the privileged classes possess.
Venkatesh often dreams of this better life while sitting in a tree staring at lavish swimming pool on the estate of a wealthy man named Nana, played by India's Bollywood Superstar Nana Patekar. The pool in the film represents the finer things Venkatesh wants, which seems out of reach. Nana lives alone with Ayesha (Ayesha Mohan) his beautiful, rebellious daughter.
The film itself is based on the routine and numbing repetitiveness of Venkatesh's jobs, until one day he gets a job with the wealthy Nana as a gardener. This is when the world opens up to this young man as Nana teaches him landscaping and tutors him with life skills. He befriends Ayesha and learns the ways of the affluent. He learns that it is a good to give to others, because it makes you feel good. The film is shot with a 35-mm camera which gives a real sense of the streets of Goa and allows the characters to perform in a fairytale setting. It also shows the lavish and radiant colors of the gardens Venkatesh and Nana work together. This is where the two different cultures become one.
The fact that Nana Patekar is the only veteran actor in this film doesn't matter, because the entire cast performs as a well oiled machine. This is a film that places emphasis on its plot and storyline. The Pool could be considered a great coming of age film; however, I found it to be a morally enlightening movie that blends excellent performances portraying the wedge between culture and class distinctions.
Simultaneously, the movie delivered a spectacular ending (so spectacular that can't be share in this review!) It is rare to find a very well crafted film that conveys a gentle and sensitive universal message that everyone can understand, without being considered silly or sappy.
FILM RATING (A)