Monday, November 03, 2008

Entourage S.5 E.9 - "Pie"

All business tonight. Nary a skirt-chasing moment or recreational activity to be found. All in all, a very serious episode with only a few comedic moments injected here and there which makes for an interesting development in the series.

The episode begins on the first day of principle photography on Smokejumpers. Jason Patric has taken over the lead role from Edward Norton (no mention of why Norton dropped out) and he’s a self-centered, fast-talking, pie-stealing egomaniac who keeps jumping over all of Vinnie’s dialogue during the shoot. Stellan Skarsgard (Mamma Mia) joins the likes of Val Kilmer, Giovanni Ribisi and Martin Landau in the increasing pool of celebrities doing a guest spot on the show that isn’t spoofing their real life persona. Skarsgard plays Werner, the director of Smokejumpers – a thickly-accented German with a propensity for talking fast and shooting quickly – clearly modeled after real-life firecracker Werner Herzog (Aguire: The Wrath of God, Rescue Dawn).

Vinnie is uneasy and unconfident on the set of the film despite having his boys along to provide moral support. One of the early scenes features the boys riding to set on the back of a production truck and discussing Vinnie’s nerves. It’s an interesting variation on the walk-and-talk sequence that offers the viewer a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes process of filmmaking and also boasts some impressive production design. Although, there’s a strange moment of inconsistency when they arrive on set to witness a series of explosions and E tells Vince “It’s going to be like every other movie you’ve ever done… only bigger.” I guess he’s not counting Aquaman – the highest grossing movie ever in Entourage world – because it was mostly shot in the studio? More in character is Drama’s response to Jason Patric walking over Vinnie’s lines by comparing the situation to his guest spot on Melrose Place and a similar debacle between him and Andrew Shue. When the problem persists, Drama utters the night’s funniest – and easiest – line: “It’s Shue all over again!”

When Vinnie confronts Patric he finds out that in fact Werner is the one giving away all his lines. It’s an interesting development because from what we see of Vinnie on set, it seems to me like Werner has the right idea by lessening Vinnie’s part. When we see Vinnie in frame with all the other actors he looks like an out-of-place kid who doesn’t have the gait or appearance of a fireman, unlike Jason Patric who slips effortlessly into the role. He also seems awfully juvenile in his on-set comportment, palling around with his three buddies all the time; he looks particularly pathetic when his confrontation with Patric is supplemented by Drama’s interjection of “You tell him bro!” Seems to me like Werner has the right idea by giving Vinnie as little to do as possible. Not sure if that’s the intention of the writers but it will be very interesting to see what direction the season’s last three episodes take, could be a very different kind of development in Entourage. The writers finally demonstrated a willingness to chink away at Vinnie’s armor last night by not giving him a buxom production assistant to flirt with or a craft service girl to bang during lunch. Who knows how much further they’re willing to take him away from his comfort zone.

The night’s b-plot concerned Ari meeting with an old friend from his early days in Hollywood, Andrew Klein (Gary Cole). Ari and Klein started out in the same firm but when the firm disintegrated Ari’s career skyrocketed and Klein’s settled into a profitable but unglamorous career as a TV lit agent. Klein comes to Ari asking for a loan to solve a temporary cash-flow problem due to the writer’s strike and Ari decides he wants to buy Klein’s company so that Klein can move out of the valley and reclaim a life as an important Hollywood agent. However, Ari’s partner Babs (Beverly D’Angelo) regards Klein as dead weight and refuses to support Ari’s decision. Although, anyone who has been reading the trades knows that one way or another, Gary Cole will be a recurring character in the next season.

Like Vince’s plot, Ari’s plot was played for minimal laughs and mostly concerned with character development. Ari continues to show his softer and kinder side and I still have trouble buying it but nevertheless, reaching out to an old friend and respecting old ties looks good on Ari and there were a few sweet moments last night. Completely out-of-sync with these plots was a minor strand concerning Turtle stealing Patric’s nameplate from his chair and Drama taking a dump in his trailer. Both actions reeked of sitcom convention, especially when Werner started sending out threats to whoever stole the chair over a megaphone. Fortunately, the plot was not resolved in typical sitcom fashion and the situation defused itself very quickly, which is indicative of one of my favorite qualities about Entourage. Unlike traditional sitcoms (and Newton’s Third Law), not every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

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