Pick­ing up where the TV se­ries left off

Los Angeles Times - - CUL­TURE MON­STER - Mark.olsen@la­times.com Twit­ter: @IndieFo­cus

years — to con­tinue the ad­ven­tures of a sim­ple New York boy turned wildly suc­cess­ful Hol­ly­wood movie star named Vin­cent Chase (Adrian Gre­nier), Vince to his friends. An im­pul­sive mar­riage lasted only a few days (his wife is un­seen in the movie), and he is ea­ger to get back to work.

For any­one who doesn’t know the se­ries, the movie in­tro­duces its main char­ac­ters via a sup­posed Piers Mor­gan tele­vi­sion pro­file of Vince that func­tions as a “pre­vi­ously on ‘En­tourage’ ” re­cap. There’s Vince’s brother Johnny (Kevin Dil­lon), a work­ing ac­tor who never made it big; Vince’s child­hood friend turned man­ager and pro­ducer Eric (Kevin Con­nolly); and driver and er­rand run­ner Tur­tle (Jerry Fer­rara), who made his own for­tune in spe­cialty tequila.

Vince’s long­time agent, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), is now a re­cently in­stalled stu­dio chief. The first movie of Ari’s regime is a $100-mil­lion­plus pro­duc­tion called “Hyde” with a first-time di­rec­tor, Vince.

As the film opens, a speed­boat makes its way to­ward a big party on a big­ger yacht off the coast of Ibiza, and the first line of di­a­logue is Johnny declar­ing to Eric and Tur­tle an urge to self-plea­sure.

It’s tempt­ing to sim­ply end this re­view here, as in some ways you now know all you need to make up your mind as to whether you want to see such a movie or not. But for the sake of com­ple­tion, par­don the phrase, let’s con­tinue.

Writ­ten and di­rected by se­ries cre­ator Doug Ellin, the film has an el­e­vated scale com­pared with the se­ries, with big­ger houses, big­ger par­ties and flashier cars, and fea­tures a good few epi- sodes’ worth of plot churn­ing. (The show was ini­tially based loosely on the cir­cle of friends around star Mark Wahlberg, who is a pro­ducer and among many celebrity cameos here.) Whether cre­ated be­cause of fan ser­vice or con­trac­tual obli­ga­tion, the movie has none of the fizz of the ear­li­est of the se­ries’ eight sea­sons, and watch­ing it sum­mons that vague blank fa­mil­iar­ity of dis­cov­er­ing a show you used to watch is un­ex­pect­edly still on the air.

The movie Vince is di­rect­ing is kept ex­tremely vague, with only a few mo­ments of the film it­self seen briefly on­screen. Tellingly, when a ref­er­ence is made in the film to “War­ren,” it is not Beatty, but Buf­fett. The star fi­nan­cial mag­nate also makes a brief cameo, in­ex­pli­ca­bly whizzing across a stu­dio lot in a golf cart, and the heart of the film even more than the show is not in the cre­ative work of mak­ing movies but in its mon­e­tary re­wards and life­style.

Much of the story in­volves a long stretch as the the guys or­ga­nize a screen- ing of the movie for re­ac­tions among friends that quickly es­ca­lates to a full-on party. At the same time, Ari is scram­bling to pla­cate the Texas busi­ness­man (Billy Bob Thorn­ton) who is ac­tu­ally fund­ing Vince’s movie as a dis­trac­tion from his own real work.

Ha­ley Joel Os­ment is Thorn­ton’s son, sent as an emis­sary to over­see their in­vest­ment, who is him­self quickly be­sot­ted by the im­plied li­cense that comes with glam­orous ex­cess. It’s in­dica­tive of the in­su­lar­ity of the world of the movie — and Ellin’s con­cep­tion of it — that he is seen only as a yokel to be fleeced and sent pack­ing, rather than some­one feed­ing off the same im­agery and cul­ture as the guys to en­able his own bad be­hav­ior.

The film’s big­gest stum­bling block is its self-sat­is­fied, dis­mis­sive at­ti­tude to­ward any­one out­side its main cir­cle, in par­tic­u­lar women, who are de­picted al­most ex­clu­sively as nags, scolds, schemers or or­na­men­ta­tion. That the bonds of friend­ship be­tween Vince and his pals are pred­i­cated so strongly on ex­clud­ing oth­ers feels re­gres­sive and drags the movie away from harm­less high jinks into some­thing need­lessly more spite­ful and ugly. Then there is the al­ways bizarre, jokey racism and ho­mo­pho­bia in the way Ari treats a for­mer as­sis­tant, Lloyd, played by Rex Lee.

The only fe­male char­ac­ter to break free is ath­lete Ronda Rousey, as her­self, with a play­ful screen pres­ence. She and Tur­tle re­peat­edly mix sig­nals as to whether they are in­ter­ested in each other per­son­ally or pro­fes­sion­ally, and their scenes have a fresh­ness not found else­where.

In part be­cause Vince is such an ill-de­fined char­ac­ter, charm­ing and hand­some but es­sen­tially empty, and Gre­nier so con­vinc­ing in the part, there was al­ways some­thing of a miss­ing cen­ter to the show. In turn, this cre­ated an in­ter­nal co­nun­drum as to whether the main char­ac­ter was re­ally Vince, Eric or Ari, and that same is­sue hov­ers over the film as well.

One can­not say that noth­ing hap­pens in “En­tourage,” but much of it feels like busy­work and wheel-spin­ning, mid­dle episodes of a larger sea­son-long arc. At the end of the film, none of the char­ac­ters are par­tic­u­larly dif­fer­ent from where or how they were at the start. Their be­hav­ior, good, bad and in­dif­fer­ent, has got­ten all of them all that they wanted.

Cer­tainly there is much worth skew­er­ing in the con­tem­po­rary movie busi­ness, which is rife with self-con­grat­u­la­tion and pet­ti­ness. Yet that would re­quire ei­ther a teller of painful truths or an over-the-top fab­u­list, Alt­man or Fellini, and Doug Ellin is cer­tainly nei­ther of those.

Rather, even in a sup­posed know­ing satire, Ellin and his gang still want to be­lieve in the fan­tasy so badly that the cur­tain is never re­ally pulled back and noth­ing is re­vealed. Every­one in “En­tourage” is livin’ the dream, and there is no one to wake them up.

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