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Without the background of the Entourage TV show, the film version falls flat.

 

Imagine going to a party full of some old college friends you haven’t seen in four years, only you’re also bringing a newer friend who didn’t go to your university at all. The whole time you know you’re having a blast with these people, but you also have to keep an eye on your friend to make sure he’s having a good time as well. Your friends frequently bring up inside jokes and stories and you’re never sure if you should fill your new friend in or just let him draw his own conclusions. At the end of the night after you leave the party, your friend tells you he certainly had fun, but feels as if he could’ve had way more fun had he gone to your same university.

 

 

That’s the best way to explain my theater-going experience with Doug Ellin’s Entourage: I’m the one with the friends and the guy I took with me was the loner outsider. This is an odd film to review because the experience is so split depending on whether or not you’ve seen the show. I have. In fact, I’ve watched the series through five different times. I’m a huge fan of the show. I’ve been waiting four years for the film, much like thousands of other fans. So I’m a bit biased when looking deeper into the film than, say, my friend who had never seen a minute of the show.

 

 

For those who haven’t seen the show, Entourage is the story of actor-turned-blockbuster-superstar Vincent Chase and his small posse of close friends: his oldest friend and eventual-manager E, childhood friend and driver Turtle, and his slightly washed-up has-been TV actor half brother Johnny “Drama” Chase. Along with Vince’s agent Ari Gold, played incredibly by Jeremy Piven, the entourage experiences the glitz, the glamour, the girls, and the drama of making it big in Hollywood. That really is all there is to the plot of the show. This isn’t a heavy-handed, emotional dramatic piece of narrative fiction. As Vince’s career grows and grows, the stakes do the same, but in the end it always works out, and then the next major hardship shows up, rinse, and repeat. It’s very safe, but that adds to the appeal of the show, at least for me. A very common connection made is to HBO’s other entourage show, Sex in the City. Both are very similar and both are enjoyable.

 

 

 

Entourage the TV series went for eight seasons, and the show saw plenty of rising and falling in quality throughout those seasons, with the final season being one of the worst. I think it’s all great, but Vince’s fall from grace in season seven is the low-point. Entourage the film can essentially be described as a ninth season condensed into two hours. Is that a bad thing? That depends. There are so many varying factors that could effect whether one would enjoy this film. For example, the friend I brought enjoyed the film, despite not knowing the back story, so it apparently can be a good stand-alone film. The glaring fact with Entourage is this whole back story that simply isn’t included or explained at all. To the blind moviegoer, that may be fine. You don’t miss what you don’t know. For the veteran like me, everything flows naturally because I’m aware of the characters’ personality traits, I’m familiar with one character’s relationship to another, and I’m aware of the significance of a film mentioned within the film. It’s a whole realm of experience that is only realized when you’ve seen the show, so I can’t fathom how people say it’s not needed before seeing the film.

 

entourage-movie-2015-trailer

 

On one hand, you can certainly experience the plot of the film as a separate entity from the show and enjoy it that way, but how can you not be confused when certain characters are introduced without being explained? Several sweeping tracking shots overhead reveal characters I immediately recognize but go mostly unnoticed, so does the blind moviegoer just continue oblivious until the credits? Entourage completely neglects to introduce almost every character to anybody who may have missed the show. Is that a bad thing, or can it be considered a film “only for the fans of the show?” On one hand I want to recommend it to anybody who hasn’t seen the show, but on the other hand I have no idea how easy it is to follow the show knowing no back story.

 

 

 

Entourage absolutely oozes with callbacks and references to the show. The entire existence of the film itself, with the lack of exposition, is one big reference to the show. Characters are who they are, act like they act, say what they say, and make the choices they do all based on the show, so I can only imagine a blind moviegoer scratching their head wondering why Ari Gold is so damn cold and mean towards Lloyd during the whole thing. That’s just how Ari is, and while he doesn’t agree with Lloyd’s lifestyle, they’ve been through a lot and have both grown and shaped each other through each other. None of that is in the film, so it’s just Ari Gold being cold and resentful toward Lloyd until the credits roll (but not after they roll). Can we chalk that up to bad storytelling, or is it just a “sorry moviegoer, you should’ve seen the show?” Is any of this lack of exposition the fault of the writer/director, or is it simply not necessary in the end? It’s a halfway decent question that will haunt me for the next few weeks.

 

 

Anyway, the film has some actual film-making problems that both audiences can be involved in. As previously mentioned, the film is more or less an entire season story arc crammed into two hours. Vincent Chase wants to direct and star in Ari Gold’s first big-budget film as studio head (he was an agent before, but that’s hardly mentioned, unless you already have seen the show), but when he goes over budget while making it, the rich co-financiers Larson McCredle and his son Travis (played by Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment, respectively) threaten to alter the film in disastrous ways to protect their money, putting Ari’s and Vince’s careers in jeopardy. It’s a story that would fit very well as an overall season story arc, but when you take that and add in several small side arcs involving the rest of the entourage, it all starts to feel cramped. Very cramped. The TV show has always been known for its celebrity cameos, so take that formula, amplify it thrice for the film, add that to the story, and it starts to get ridiculous to try to fit this all in a two hour span. A lot is sacrificed to do so. Keeping this spoiler free, the last 15 minutes of the film are the biggest offenders by far, with everything coming to a close so fast it blows you back in your seat. Side stories are left completely open or forgotten altogether and the cameos are so packed in some are only on screen for a few seconds before moving onto the next one. Sure, it’s the spirit of the show, but it gets jarring near the end. It makes you question what the point is of including some of them when they add nothing to story at all. The film sits at around two hours even, but for a veteran like me, after waiting four years for this film, it could use an extra hour and a half to properly let the story breathe and be told correctly. Or make the story an actual season nine and it’ll fit right into the flow of the show. The pacing is just all wrong, and it forces back-stories and exposition to be ignored, conflicts to be cut short, and potential to be cut off right when reaching its peak. Writer/director Doug Ellin has stated he wants to make a trilogy out of this story, given that the film makes the right money, so it’s hard to tell whether or not these faults are the act of a TV director stumbling through film or if it’s all intentional, should a sequel be made.

 

 

Can Entourage, as a film, be recommended? As a running theme in this review, it depends on whether or not you’ve seen the show, I think. On its own, it’s the story of a blockbuster film star’s directorial debut and the complications that come with it, albeit horribly rushed. It’s a great way to be dropped into a fast-paced and stressful world filled with enough celebrities to make your head spin. As a continuation of the Entourage TV show, it’s like walking into that college party and seeing all your good friends after four years. Things have changed, but the spirit is still alive, and you can pick right up back where you left off. Is one experience better than the other? Does it matter? Good question.

 

 

About The Author

Steve Carley

Steve Carley is a Michigan-born lover and resident of the film industry in Atlanta, Georgia. When he's not infiltrating the nearest Waffle House or giving up on the most recent movie-adapted book he can be seen lounging in his apartment complex's pool and regretting the way he wrote his Film Takeout bio.