Two guys, Gary and Jack, walk into a bar, slide into opposite sides of a booth and order beers. Then, their evening of talk begins:
Gary: Have you ever seen Entourage?
Jack: Entourage? What’s that?
Gary: You’re not gonna tell me that you only watch HBO for The Sopranos, are you?
Jack: Well I do. When it’s on, I watch it.
Gary: I’m gonna forgive you one time for that. You gotta see Entourage.
Gary: Hollywood up close. I read some weeks back in the L.A. Times how Entourage mirrors the real Hollywood, with a few liberties taken for obvious reasons. Anyway, in the midst of all the episodes, which surround actor Vincent Chase, there’s his publicist played by Debi Mazar.
Jack: Wasn’t she in that Rodney Dangerfield movie?
Gary: Which one?
Jack: Where he played a talk show host.
Gary: Oh yeah. Didn’t see it.
Jack: So anyway, Debi Mazar. What are you driving at?
Gary: Saw this movie the other night that was set in a bar, called “Goodnight, Joseph Parker,” I think.
Jack: Ironic, man. Talking about a movie set in a bar, in a bar!
Gary: One of these days, you’re gonna have to tell me how you manage to get through the day without sneezing your brains out.
Jack: Oh come on man, it’s amusing.
Jack: Ok, so what about this movie?
Gary: I cruised around the ‘net after I saw the film, and I found out it was adapted from a play written by Dennis Brooks, which served as his thesis project at UCLA.
Jack: Um, Debi Mazar? Remember?
Gary: For someone who barely knows who she is, you sure say her name a lot.
Jack: Well, it’s unique.
Gary: At the beginning, and with all the years she’s been in movie after movie either in a supporting role or an even smaller role, she’s got to love how it all starts with her, walking into the bar, opening a small set of curtains, drinking coffee, and smoking. And you’ve got to expand your exposure to her by seeing this. First, she’s the quasi-caretaker to Charlie, the owner of Charlie’s Tavern, and he’s a broken-down man. He doesn’t exactly show it, but you can sense the disappointment in his eyes, even as he tries to remain cheery. He almost throws out a drunk broke bum named Frankie because he threatens to go to a nearby bar called Yankee Doodles. And he’s got good reason. His bar’s going under. Out of business. Bankrupt.
Jack: A bankrupt bar?! But there’s booze!
Gary: And it’s in New Jersey. Go figure. Anyway, Mazar seems to relish this role. In “Entourage”, she’s got to negotiate her way through all the barbed wire that runs through Hollywood. She’s got to make sure Vincent looks good for anything that comes his way. Here, it feels so personal. She just goes for it.
Jack: And the owner of the bar. What about him?
Gary: Paul Sorvino. It’s the finest role of his career and his life. Charlie wants so much to fill what little is left of his life. It’s his bar and even though it’s failing, it’s still who he is. He becomes new again when a former patron, Joseph Parker, returns after seven years away. Living in the city. Apparently, he’s the big man around. Knows Sinatra, and he announces he’s gonna be on Leno.
Jack: And everyone who sees him again, including Mazar and anyone else who walks through that door says different things to him that aren’t necessarily true so they at least feel like they’re closer to his success?
Gary: How the hell did you know that?
Jack: A guess.
Gary: Yeah, that’s what happens, but don’t let it put you off. Steven Tyler’s in it too.
Jack: Aerosmith Steven Tyler?
Gary: Briefly. Plays one of the other bums that prefers Yankee Doodles but comes around for comedic effect.
Jack: Huh. So what else? What about the bar itself?
Gary: It’s certainly not the kind of bar we’re at right now. It looks very comfortable. And Charlie’s exactly the bartender you’d want to have if you just wanted a quiet drink. The bar feels like it’s been there longer than it exists. It knows where it is, so it just is. It’s gloomy and the light even becomes as depressed as the surroundings when it comes in once in a while. But it looks nice.
Jack: Better than this stumblebum place. What’s this s**t all over the table?
Gary: I think they call it “clean.”
Jack: Really. Someone oughta complain. Anything else about this movie that tickles your unspeakable parts?
Gary: There are a lot of conversations in this movie, a lot of dialogue to go around for every actor, including Nick Chinlund who gets quite a sizable amount after he comes in as Joseph, or Joey to Charlie. And even though the main set is this bar for nearly all of the time, the editing, the lighting, and the camerawork don’t make it feel like you’re watching a play, though there are moments where some of these characters should stop talking and let others speak. Great dialogue, though. Sometimes you hear dialogue in a movie and it leaves your ear as quickly as it came in, but you consider what’s spoken here, not only to put together all who are involved in this sticky emotional situation, but also to mull over phrases you might not have heard before, such as when Rita, Mazar’s character, is escorting a drunk Frankie to the door to take him home. She calls him a puking f**k.
Jack: That’s not really different. Wasn’t I called that once at another bar?
Gary: Yeah. By the date you brought. You puked all over her expensive high heels.
Jack: They didn’t look that expensive.
Gary: Alright, whatever. I think I’ve lost track of my thoughts just by that memory.
Jack: Short ending, then. Was it worth it?
Gary: Yeah it’s worth it. You want to be deeply satisfied by great acting, you watch Mazar and Sorvino. The ending goes where you expect it, but for all the little moments before it, no matter.
Jack: Another beer?
Gary: Does Ron Jeremy date your ex-girlfriend?
Jack: Funny you should ask that rhetorical question….