The Green-Light | Entourage has a terrible movie-within-a-movie. Here’s how it could have been great

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Welcome to The Green-Light, a new column from Gary Green. Find within spittle-flecked passion and encyclopaedic insight on everything to do with the movies.


I wasn’t that insulted by Entourage. Sure, it’s by no means a great movie, and in many ways it’s rather a bad one – but I didn’t leave the cinema feeling as if my entire worldview had been stepped on, or my moral compass had been smashed upon the pavement outside. I gave it three stars (forshame if you haven’t read my review already), and left it at that – much how I left my brain at the door. Mark Kermode, in his latest epic rant, decries the movie as an abhorrent cinema-scape of sexism glamorization, vacuous peacocking, and so on. And he’s not wrong. But one thing he did point out was the film’s own lack of sense-awareness; when Ari Gold, the studio executive and friend of fresh director Vincent Chase, hits play on an early cut of Vince’s film ‘Hyde’, he’s blown away by how good it is, later labelling it a masterpiece. The film clearly isn’t a masterpiece – in fact, I believe the technical term is ‘glowing turd’. It’s Entourage’s perfect (the real film, not the fake film-within-a-film) moment to prove to us that Vince truly is a great talent, and yet, it misses the point entirely by actually showing us a slice of the beyond-awful Hyde. What I’m most confused by, however, is that the filmmakers of Entourage – Doug Ellin, namely – avoided using a simple, well-worn technique to show us the brilliance of their fake movie. What technique would that be? I’m glad you asked: show us nothing at all.

hey

Are you listening, Mr. Director?

Consider it for a moment: when Ari hits play on Vince’s film, we could then cut instantly to the next scene, and thereby be kept in the dark about Hyde completely. With this simple act of non-disclosure, our brains wouldn’t have been able to argue otherwise about the quality of Vince’s movie; it would have set up an Otherness to the project, a magical quality where only our own imaginations can fill the gaps. In other words, Vince’s movie would have every possibility of being the greatest movie ever made – or a ‘masterpiece’ as Ari puts it – as long as none of it is actually shown. Even when removed from a movie, the same goes for unreleased pictures in real life; the time we first see the trailer, or even a set photo, from an upcoming film, we instantly form some kind of opinion about it. It’s a type of doom, reserved only for art that has yet to leave the Schrödinger’s Cat-like box it finds itself in when hidden from our sight; instead, we would be left to merely accept that it’s a great movie, like every character says it is – but even when it does show me some of the movie, which is really, really bad, Entourage still continues to tell me that this movie is fantastic. It’s like a form of amateurish, laughably ineffective mind control from the ‘60s. Please, Entourage – get out of my brain.

Even the poster for the fake movie makes it look awful.

Even the poster for this fake movie is awful.

While Entourage wasn’t clever enough to make use of the simple trick of not actually showing us anything, elsewhere in moviedom, it’s been put to very clever use indeed. The King of Comedy, for my money Martin Scorsese’s greatest film (and that’s really saying something), features Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) as a sociopathic wannabe comedian intent on showing the world his talent. Kidnapping his idol Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) in exchange for a slot on the celebrity’s talk show gets him there; for the entirety of the film, Scorsese narrowly avoids showing us any of Pupkin’s comedic material right at the last minute, as if to snatch it away from us because it isn’t ready yet. However, toward the climax of the film, we’re finally treated to Pupkin’s on-screen, live stand-up on Lewis’ show for an almost uninterrupted entire five minutes. The audience cheer and applaud wildly as Pupkin makes his exit; the detective arresting Pupkin tells him how bad his material was. The movie’s point is that it doesn’t matter if it was good or not; it doesn’t force you to pick either way. Entourage, on the other hand, does.

hey

Must’ve just seen ‘Hyde.’

Something similar happens in movies about musicians, too: how many times have you seen a film where a fictitious music act, hailed for their excellence, actually have terrible songs? As good a film as Almost Famous is, and no matter how convincing Stillwater are as a tumultuous rock band (probably more so than the real Stillwater), their written-for-the-movie music is dreadful. On the other side of the spectrum is Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; each tune is catchier than the last, and designed by actual musicians (in this case, Beck was on songwriting duties). In fact, Wright and Beck actually considered cutting to the next scene whenever the bands began playing their tunes – but that was before the filmmakers realised they actually had some pretty nifty tracks up their sleeve. The lesson is that they knew full well of the allure of the unknown, and also importantly, when to back off. And what about when struggling-writer protagonists read lines from their novels? The Last Five Years is the most recent offender; no one can hear prose like that and still feel empathy for their character.

hey

I feel as if I’m heckling them from the future.

And that’s Entourage’s problem. Well, one of its many problems; it’s a small point, but I think it’s a major factor in what’s wrong with the movie. Its own confidence in itself far outweighs any talent on offer (something which could easily be said about its characters, too), and this is solidified by that brief, almost inconsequential sequence where we are shown Vince’s movie. As such, the power of the unseen remains untouched – and sadly, in the case of Entourage, untapped. The old adage less is more applies to most cinematic endeavours; here, it should have been a case of nothing at all.

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