I am not the target audience for the movie of Entourage, now in theaters: in part because I have never seen an episode of the TV show Entourage, which this movie follows, and moreover because I have seen other movies, which I am not convinced is something I share with Doug Ellin, the writer/director/producer/creator of Entourage. But I am also a movie critic, and some people who go to the movies don’t have HBO, so I went to a screening of Entourage with some questions and came out with some answers and some different questions. Spoilers ahoy, in no particular order:
Entourage is not a dude Sex and the City.
Because the show was about four best friends, aired on HBO, and I never watched it, I long assumed Entourage was the west-coast dude to Sex and the City‘s east-coast lady. They both talk about fucking a lot and seem like crazy fantasies of their respective cities, so that tracks. But I no longer think this is the case. Despite only having seen a handful of Sex and the City episodes, the movie made basic sense to me. It was mostly terrible, but I understood it—and more importantly, I understood who Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha were at basic levels. Again, I don’t particularly like those characters, but I get what their archetypes are, and understand why those archetypes resonated. With Entourage, ok, I get that Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) is a handsome movie star who brought his buddies along for the ride, and I get that his half-brother Johnny (Kevin Dillon) is the crude jackass of the bunch, but that’s about it. Who are the rest of these guys? What are their relationships to each other beyond generic bros-before-some-hos-but-after-particularly-hot-hos? I saw that there’s an internet quiz going around that determines which Entourage character are you. How does that even work? Does it just ask you how many times per day you talk about jerking off, and if you say the maximum, you’re Johnny Drama, and if not they just pick one at random?
Seriously, though: What’s the difference between E and Turtle?
I think, after watching this 105-minute movie, which includes a long scene where Piers Morgan re-introduces the premise of Entourage while the characters sit and make wan wisecracks, I could more or less tell the difference between Kevin Connolly, who plays Vince’s lifelong friend Eric, and Jerry Ferrara, who plays Vince’s… other lifelong friend?… Turtle (although Entourage sure doesn’t help by casting two actors named Kevin, one named Jeremy, and another named Jerry in the same central clique). But I’m not sure what the difference between their characters is supposed to be. Neither of them are funny. Neither of them has a distinct way of speaking, or even really behaving. They’re both just vaguely hapless. Was the eight-season run of the show about the slow, brutal process of stripping away their identities, breaking them down into members of the Vinnie Chase cult? That would be such a boring cult to be in, you guys. I mean, you get into it thinking, ok, girls will have sex with me for no reason, but all of the time-killing in between! And all of the terrible Vinnie Chase movies you presumably have to watch and help make! Because E produces movies now; does that tidbit make sense if you watched the show?
E is the main character.
That’s something I learned watching the credits (which are neat and easily the most inventive part of the movie, embedding all the names and titles in Hollywood signage), because Kevin Connolly is first-billed, and also from the parts in the movie where his love interest Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) seems like a character from the TV series. It is not something I learned from E’s narrative in the movie, which is mostly passive, or from Connolly’s screen presence, which is minimal. Somehow, though, Connolly is not overshadowed by Adrian Grenier, playing a handsome, charismatic, and world-famous movie star, because—and this is something I really did not know going in—Vince is a total cipher. He has virtually no characteristics; he barely has more than one facial expression. Entourage expects its audience to believe that money, power, and artistic electricity emanate from a guy who isn’t even charismatic enough to power Entourage. If anything, the mostly-repulsive Johnny Drama would make the most sense as a main character: a D-list hanger-on forever scraping for one good role. That’s a human being. Dillon’s performance isn’t exactly endearing—his amped-up voice sounds like he’s doing an impression of some mook he met at a party—but he does manage a couple of laughs, at least. If a Johnny Drama spinoff sounds like a nightmare, well, nightmares are better than comas, right?
So anyway, Turtle used to be fat?
I don’t remember there being a fat one when I used to see ads for the TV show Entourage, but one of the big running gags in the movie is that people comment on Turtle’s weight loss and wonder how he could have done it. I guess maybe Jerry Ferrara looks a little slimmer than he did in the last movie I saw him in (which I think was Last Vegas, in which he played gopher to Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, etc.), but mostly I was left wondering if this was a Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels-style instance of characters calling one guy fat and me being legitimately puzzled about what they mean. I always thought that was a weird British thing but it turns out maybe it’s a weird bro thing, which I guess makes sense. It’s also entirely possible that the running gag is less a result of Ferrara losing much weight and more a result of Doug Ellin having no idea how to write dialogue. There are sentences in this movie that are so rote, robotic-sounding, and/or clumsy that I couldn’t believe these were characters Ellin supposedly helped shape for eight seasons. The movie’s rhythmless patter is such that Ronda Rousey, an MMA fighter with a handful of movies under her belt, walks into the movie (playing herself as a Turtle love interest) and does about as well with the dialogue as anyone else. She also engenders goodwill by administering a much-deserved beating to one of the cast members and immediately engenders some ill will by not working her way through the rest of the ensemble.
These guys like to fuck but don’t show much interest in women as people, or even in fucking really well.
This probably goes without saying, huh?
Does Doug Ellin know anything about Hollywood, the setting for his TV series and film?
I ask because Entourage centers on the making of a movie in the most listless, tone-deaf, and uninteresting way possible. Vince decides he wants to do something important, so he gets himself a gig directing himself in Hyde, a big-budget sci-fi reimagining of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, financed by the studio where his ex-agent Ari (Jeremy Piven) now works, and, as such, funded by a Texas zillionaire (Billy Bob Thronton). When Vince and his producer E need some more money to actually finish the budget-busting film, there’s some suspense, in the early going, over whether Vince has laid an enormous egg, and lord knows there’s plenty of comedy in the making of a major Hollywood boondoggle. So the nervous and always angry Ari sits down to watch Vince’s unfinished cut, and Entourage lets us in on the first few minutes. It turns out that Ellin’s idea of a cutting-edge sci-fi blockbuster looks like The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones crossed with an EDM music video. It further turns out that he’s not kidding (see below). Also, Ellin seems to think that an unfinished film that needs $15 million to become releaseable would nonetheless be outfitted with opening credits (in fact, what, exactly, is missing from the version Ari watches is never addressed; that’s how uncritical the movie is of Vince’s process).
Entourage has amazing contempt for people who aren’t in Entourage.
After teasing out the possibility that Vince might have done something stupid, Entourage, amazingly, reveals that Ari loves this horseshit. Even this briefly seems like it might be a satire of Hollywood insularity and lack of self-examination, because we only hear about the movie’s high quality from “our” guys (Vince, E, Ari) until the zillionaire financer’s son (Haley Joel Osment) raises some major issues he had with the film. But instead of confronting this situation as actual drama, the movie eventually adapts the point of view that Vince’s movie is amazing and Osment’s character—portly, awkward, sleazy—is really just jealous that Vince fucked Emily Ratajkowski. So yes, Entourage is actually a movie about how people only say no to vacuous empty-headed Hollywood folks out of pure animal jealousy, and how everything this fictional character does works out for him. Does this sound like an interesting story to anyone? I guess it would be an effective recruitment video for handsomeness, if that was something people needed to be convinced to want.
Did the TV show consist of a lot of scenes where Jeremy Piven and/or other characters walk by celebrities playing themselves?
That seems to be a major part of the appeal here, which does make sense, as I was much happier watching a few fleeting seconds of Liam Neeson or Jessica Alba than I was watching anyone not playing him or herself.
Entourage is basically porn.
I should mention: there are a couple of ways that regular movies are usually compared to porn. One is, obviously, by the movie having lots of explicit sex and/or nudity. The movie of Entourage certainly has gratuitous moments of both, but it’s relatively tame even by HBO standards. Another is wallowing in a particular aesthetic or milieu that a few will find blissful and most will find distastefully indulgent: the torture porn of Saw, the architecture porn of Nancy Meyers, and so on. Entourage will certainly be accused of that, for the way the camera lingers on bikini-clad bodies that orbit Vince and his buddies as part of a fantastical L.A. lifestyle more than a thin excuse to look at those bodies. But that’s not exactly I mean, either. I mean that beyond the actual depictions of sex, Entourage has the general attitude of a pornographic film: sex is constantly available with virtually no effort yet vaguely jokey (but never funny), and the story is thin to nonexistent, all in service of the heroes more or less getting everything they want with only minimal complications. Variations on the same scene repeat and repeat and then the movie ends. I couldn’t see much filmmaking in Entourage, the same way I imagine it would be difficult to evaluate the filmmaking in pornography; as long as everything is lit reasonably well, what’s happening onscreen is too distracting to think of it as a real movie—whether you’re delighted or disgusted.