Sunday, 21 June 2015

Entourage (2015) - Movie Review

Some days, I just don’t like doing intros for these reviews. I make it a point of trying to make these intros have some point beyond just opening each review like discussing certain topics like film trends or giving backstory on the creative teams behind certain works. However, given what’s on the chopping block this time around, I get the feeling that I would just end up trying to type out a weird abstraction that, when read aloud, would approximate the sound of a cat being crushed by a meteor so as to simulate the experience of how unpleasant it is to recollect this thing. But even then, such an image could at least make for something funny with the right emphasis or caption added to it, and this film and ‘funny’ are barely on speaking terms with each other. Time to get into the review before this ramble keeps going, even though it allows me to put off talking about this thing for a bit longer and my, the sky outside my bedroom window is probably the clearest I’ve… dammit.

The plot: Vince (Adrian Grenier) has been offered the lead role in a blockbuster by his former agent Ari (Jeremy Piven), but he will only accept the role if he also gets to direct the film. Sure enough, the film goes over budget and Ari has to placate his Texan investor Larsen McCreadle (Billy Bob Thornton) and his son Travis (Haley Joel Osment) in order to secure more funding. Between this, and all the happenings that occur to Vince, his friends E (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and his half-brother Drama (Kevin Dillon), it looks like getting the film finished is going to be more difficult than any of them thought.

I have never watched an episode of the show proper, so I’m not going to be making any comparisons between this and its source. However, I know enough about film adaptations of TV shows to know how the formula goes: It’s just like the show, only feature-length and with a bigger budget. While avoiding stepping into any pigeonholes, I will at least make the statement that if that is indeed the case here, then my decision to not watch the show might be the wisest decision I’ve made since clicking on that one YouTube video all those years ago that lead me into doing these reviews in the first place. The film, far as I can ascertain, is meant to be some kind of satire of Hollywood life, its pitfalls and its excesses. Now, I’m by no means against this idea but I am very against the way it’s done here. There’s a very big difference between satirising excess and just plain exploiting it, the key point being that satirising is done with some form of point in mind, some statement that it wants to make. Or hell, it could just be about shooting barbs at every aspect of the lifestyle that it can aim for.

What we get here is basically a lot of showing and not a lot of telling: We’re shown four incredibly prickish guys who do incredibly prickish things to people, but we’re not really told why this is supposed to be funny or even why we’re supposed to like these people. They’re all womanising, insincere arseholes, making the star-filled ‘o’ in the series logo take on a weird symbolic meaning, and I’m guessing we’re supposed to find it charming. Sorry, no dice. Between E’s rampant womanising, Turtle’s sorry desperation and Drama’s mere existence, not to mention how much of a complete blank slate Vince is, I have nothing but contempt for these arseholes.

It doesn’t help that they keep surrounding themselves with plots and people that I would rather be paying attention to, in yet another weird attempt to overload the rule about referencing better material. One of the few things I do know about the show is that it has a thing for cameos, and there’s certainly no shortage of those. Credit where it’s due in that quite a few of them are actually funny, but every time they pop in it’s like getting sucker-punched given how often it happens in this movie. This does get a bit confusing when there are recognisable actors, like Billy Bob Thornton and, arguably, Haley Joel Osment, who are in actual roles within the film. Then there’s the matter of the film-within-the-film that they’re fighting for: Hyde. It gets a little obvious with its poking fun at the current insurgence of superhero films, and admittedly some of that poking is deserved, but all it ultimately serves to do is make me want to see that film because it looks like it would either be really good or a colossal train wreck that I could laugh at, neither of which ends up happening with this movie.

The big offender in terms of 'things I wish this film was actually about' is, oddly enough, one of its main characters: Ari. This is weird because quite a lot of the film does indeed centre around him, and Jeremy Piven makes for easily the only consistently good thing about the entire production, but there’s always that feeling that his scenes will soon be over and we’ll be stuck with the douchebag brigade and wondering who they’ll annoy/drug/try to bang next. Actually, maybe it’s the sympathy factor that Ari has to deal with these guys all the time, and that he seems to be the only one among them with a level head, that makes him as endearing as he is. And while I’m the mood for being positive about the film, the other guy who pulls in a good performance is Osment as Travis. His role, the spoilt rich kid who tries to meddle with the film because it’s ‘his money’, is the closest this film gets to succeeding at any kind of barb-throwing that actually lands. Maybe it’s because I know that people like this exist in Hollywood today, and keep ruining potential greats like Walking With Dinosaurs, but his pettiness is the kind of grounding that this film needed more of. Sure, the way his subplot ends is kinda-sorta infuriating in how badly it’s dropped, but in the moment it works.

All in all, this very clearly wasn’t made for someone like me. That said though, between the grating attempts at being funny, the aggressive onslaught of out-of-place cameos and the wonky plot progression across all 9 billion of the running subplots, I can still look at this somewhat objectively and still say that it isn’t good; Jeremy Piven may be very funny in this film, but he just isn’t enough to save us from everything else to be found here. When Michael Bay does a better job than you at commenting on American excesses, something is seriously wrong.

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