STUDIO: HBO Documentary Films
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 85 Minutes
• Audio Commentary w/Adrian Grenier, Jonathan Davidson and Jim Mol
• Behind the Scenes – (You Drive Me) Crazy Music Video
• Are You My Daddy? featurette
• 10 Years Later: Updates via Skype

The Pitch

The dude who was in 3 minutes of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence needs his Daddy.

The Humans

Carl Dunbar, Debbie Dunbar, Esther Dunbar, John Dunbar, Evan Ferrante

Director: Adrian Grenier

The Nutshell

“In his directorial debut, actor Adrian Grenier questions the nature of fatherhood and the meaning of family history as he embarks on a personal quest to become reacquainted with his estranged father.”

The Lowdown

I really don’t like Entourage. I’d say my hatred is genuine, except that I’ve seen maybe three-fourths of one episode. Fans should know the episode. It was the one where the douchey-bros have douchey exploits in showbiz and then douchey agent Jeremy Piven shouts at them a lot.

It’s possible that I’d like the show if I gave it another chance, but a large part of my distaste is due to the presence of Adrian Grenier. So for me to watch a documentary he directed before he found fame is akin to a scientist seeing his creation before it went on a spree of wonton death and violence. To provide an example of what turns me off of Mr. Grenier, I don’t have to look much further than the opening moments.

"I consider myself a nerd."

Adrian is milling around outside Yankee Stadium, asking fans what the word “father” means to them. A few people are picked seemingly at random and don’t offer up much. Adrian finally stops a young gent and asks him what he thinks the word means. The gent pauses a moment and states that he has absolutely no clue. Adrian prods for a better answer, but this young guy repeats again that he could not say what a father actually is. There’s seemingly a whole back-story dying to escape from this guy, but Adrian thanks him and turns to the camera. His declaration; “Man, I feel so lost.” As far as I could tell, this is Grenier’s thesis.

"No, we're from Rehoboth Beach. Why do you ask?"

In short, Adrian’s (possible) biological father ran out on him at a very young age and fled to Ohio.  He has not had any contact with him since. Understandably, this has weighed on Adrian through the years and his distaste for the man who his mother thinks is his father grew. He decides to cobble together a film crew, find his Dad and then confront him. Some readers may think, “Hey how is this any different than the scores upon scores of children abandoned by parents each year?” The answer is very simple; none of those kids had a lead role on an HBO show.

That’s exactly the answer that ultimately bothers me about this film and by extension Grenier himself. It’s a pretty standard story about a somewhat privileged white child trying to find his/her father, given additional credence because the person in question was bound to be star. Sure, Grenier doesn’t try to sugarcoat the experience, and focuses primarily on the un-“Hollywood” aspects of his life, with the authentic New Yorkers and Harmony Korine-esque Ohioans comprising a majority of his interview subjects. But Grenier himself seems much more guarded, acknowledging that while his childhood development hit a few snags, he has absolutely no regrets and feels like he was given an ideal card in life.

"Yeah I had my Mom's name tattooed on my arm in her memory."

Despite this self-fulfillment he has no problem dedicating days/weeks/months to finding out where this cad is. We know Adrian’s father is a cad because his (potential) son’s mother says so, an aspect that factors way too heavily into the proceedings. Referred to by friends as a “mama’s boy,” Grenier seemingly came into this film with the perception that his mother, while flawed, was a strong-minded progressive that single-handedly took on the adventure that is having a child. This front-loads the film with a ton of vaguely hidden vitriol toward the would-be pater familias. It doesn’t help that the maternal figure ultimately doesn’t come across all that much better.

Karesse Grenier is a caring and loving mother to her son. She was also apparently the definition of a flower child, which goes hand in hand with promiscuity. According to her, it’s fully possible that her son was conceived in a pumpkin patch outside of Columbus, a motel room in Santa Fe or, why not, a truck stop bathroom in Grand Rapids. Regardless, the fact that there is ambiguousness regarding the birthfather only feeds the sense that this is the work of a contemptuous young person who needs to attach his lingering sense of emptiness to a particular villain, even if that villain isn’t the person he’s been suspecting for 20+ years.

The douche-in-making takes to the road with another friend, John, who’s easily the Patient Zero of our current hipster trend. Their journey takes them to the absolute boondocks of Ohio. Now I’m a born and raised Ohioan, a Clevelander to be exact. Whenever one of us see the type of Ohio resident on display here, we’re trained to hide underneath the floorboards of our home, lest they steal a family member. Adrian Grenier decides to interview these denizens and instead of having a loved one wrest from his grips, he’s directed to his father’s location.

The meeting of father and son is rife with drama, which seems to make the filmmaker all too happy. What’s strange is that their relationship doesn’t contain anything drama-worthy or even of interest for the duration of the film. What it left me with was a sense of “why tell this story?” and when all was said and done (and done in particularly tacky fashion) all I was left with was the answer to that question; “because I want to be important.”

The Package

Standard extras with nothing standing out.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars