Cameos add spice to serial filler
Entourage (MA15+) National release Walking the Camino (PG) Limited release
What’s the briefest time an actor can be on screen and still have a lasting impact on a film? Beatrice Straight won a best supporting actress Oscar for her five-minute, 40-second appearance as a wronged wife in Sidney Lumet’s 1976 masterpiece Network. Almost 20 years earlier Hermione Baddeley was nominated in the same category for her sub-three-minute turn in Jack Clayton’s Room at the Top. The one burned in my mind, however, is Montgomery Clift’s extraordinary 12 minutes in the witness box in Stanley Kramer’s Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), also Oscar nominated though the award went to George Chakiris for West Side Story.
These thoughts came to mind while watching Entourage, based on the 2004-11 television series of the same name, because the greatest pleasure of the film lies in its numerous cameos. There’s barely a scene where a famous face doesn’t pop up, often in anger: Liam Neeson, Kelsey Grammer, Jessica Alba, Ed O’Neill, Mike Tyson, Warren Buffett … the list goes on.
Best of all is Mark Wahlberg, whose early Hollywood experiences are the loose inspiration for Entourage and who has been involved in the project from the beginning.
When the gang bumps into Wahlberg and asks what he’s doing, he says he’s working on another sequel to the not-for-kids teddy bear comedy Ted. When someone expresses surprise that there’s more than one Ted film, Wahlberg says, “Shit, I’ll do 20 if I can.’’
That sort of sums up Entourage. Why make a feature film of a moderately successful TV series that ended four years ago? Because someone asked you to and handed over $US30 million to boot. (By the way, Ted 2 is due to hit the big screen on June 25.)
Moreover, it’s part of a TV-to-movie trend that has accelerated in recent times. There were more than 20 years between the end of the original Mission: Impossible TV series and the first Tom Cruise movie; four years between the TV conclusion and cinema debut of Sex and the City.
If you were a fan of Entourage on TV then you should enjoy this film version, as it’s essentially a long bonus episode. Same cast, same location, same beautiful people, same dream cars, same foul language, same crude sexual humour, with series creator Doug Ellin in the driver’s seat as writer and director.
In contrast, if you didn’t like the show — and many people find its borderline misogyny deeply unattractive — then there’s nothing here to change your mind.
For those who came in late, the ostensible centre of the story is handsome young actor Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), who by now is an A-list star. Vincent is surrounded and supported by his childhood buddies from Queens, New York: older, less successful actor halfbrother Johnny “Drama” Chase (Kevin Dillon, Matt’s younger brother), manager Eric Murray (Kevin Connolly) and driver-dogsbody Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), who is now richest of all because of a successful tequila business.
Vincent owes much of his good fortune to super agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven, the manic, commanding centre of the TV series and film), who quit at the end of the TV series but is now not only back but running a Hollywood studio.
Ari has backed Vincent to the tune of $US100m for his next project, a modern take on the Jekyll and Hyde story, which also marks the star’s directorial debut. (Mel Gibson did it with Braveheart, we are reminded.) However, Vincent is over budget and that means going to the Texas billionaire who finances the films (but never watches them) to ask for more dough.
The venal mogul role is more or less phoned in by Billy Bob Thornton, but his son Travis, who takes over the negotiations with Vincent and Ari, is played by former child star Haley Joel Osment, fat, bearded and beady-eyed, handgun at his hip, but not as stupid as he looks, and it’s the performance of the film.
Vincent and Ari’s tussles with Travis, and with an increasingly agitated studio chairman, provide the main tension of the film, along with understandable concerns about whether Vincent’s Hyde will be any good. The better Gibson analogy is to The Passion of the Christ. In the background there are lots of women who give the boys grief, but this isn’t their show. If you like a bit of yin with your yang, then
Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago is a good follow-up to Entourage. After all that cheap Hollywood glitz, here is a modest documentary about people making the ancient pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the Catholic cathedral in Spain that some believe holds the remains of the apostle James.
This is not a religious film, however. The unconnected (though that changes) individuals we follow on the 800km walk from southwestern France to the church town in northwestern Spain are there for various reasons.
Tatiana, a young French woman, is the most overtly devout, but she is making the trek with her three-year-old son (who has a stroller) and atheist brother. Young Portuguese man Tomas is there on a whim. Wayne, a dignified Canadian gent, is walking in memory of his wife, accompanied by his cerebral friend Jack. Annie from Los Angeles is there to learn about herself, not that she knows it at first. Misa, who is Danish-English, is the one most consciously on a Cheryl Strayed Wild trip: her life is a mess.
American filmmaker Lydia Smith follows unobtrusively (she is never on camera), allowing her subjects to tell their stories in their own time, just as they are encouraged to walk the Camino at their own pace.
The result is a bit of repetition, whether it be people complaining about their blisters or telling us for the 10th time that what matters is the journey, not the destination. But ultimately the gentle pace works for a story that unfolds across more than a month.
The “six ways” of the title refers to the storypaths of the main pilgrims, but Davis ends up accommodating more than a half-dozen, which seems in the spirit of the exercise.
The scenery is spectacular — blue skies, green fields and bursts of purple flowers, interrupted now and then by charming cobblestone towns. As Annie says, it’s like walking in a postcard. (Emilio Estevez used this landscape well in his 2010 drama about the Camino, The Way, starring his dad Martin Sheen.) The pilgrims are engaging and irritating by turns — they’re real people — but all seem kind-hearted and interested in others and the world around them. I like that they are not seeking mountaintop en- lightenment but just some peace and quiet to think, to arrive at small insights they may or may not take back to their regular lives.
“This day is what I have now, and there is no guarantee about tomorrow,” Wayne says at one point. “So I will walk this day as best I can.’’
From left, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier and Kevin Dillon in Entourage; a scene from Walking
the Camino, above