Yes, Entourage is ragingly sexist and emblematic of an utterly terrible subculture, but it is also something far worse: an abysmal film.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Question: would Entourage be raked over the coals as much as it has been if it hadn’t come along slap-bang in the middle of a long-overdue conversation about representations of gender, race, privilege, and masculine depictions in movies? It’s a fair question. After all, it is very easy to hate and despise Entourage for what it represents, the status quo, stories of privileged bros cruising their way through life with nary a major concern or threat to their success whilst they treat women like disposable sex conquests or nagging shrews that are terrible for them. It’s an easy punching bag, one that’s likely to stir up no major blowback from any parties involved because even those who like the show frequently admit that it’s awful, and our speedy desire to rebel against the toxic status quo of Hollywood filmmaking can lead to us trashing this film for what it represents rather than anything the film itself actually does.
So, it is a fair question to ask: would Entourage be raked over the coals as much as it has been if it hadn’t been made and released now, today? My answer is simple: yes. Yes, it would have. Or, at least, I hope that it would have, because Entourage is absolute and total garbage.
I am under no delusions, folks, I know why you are here. You are here to see me rip this film to shreds, to see me rant and rave and cuss up a storm and fling baseless insults at everyone involved in this film, like an angry ape flinging its faeces at anything in its general vicinity because it hasn’t been given its dinner yet. Well, that’s not happening, and I’m sorry to disappoint if you got your expectations up. No, Entourage does not deserve even that. It is such a complete and total failure on every last conceivable level that it does not deserve the equivalent of a humiliating public flogging. Instead, I am going to sit here and calmly explain, in step-by-step detail, precisely why this movie fails, so that, when this is done, you have no doubts in your mind that Entourage is an absolute atrocity.
Let’s begin with the fact that Entourage only tenuously has a plot. Mega-successful movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) has been tapped by ex-mega-agent-turned-studio-head Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) to star in Ari’s first feature as studio head, a $100 million blockbuster called Hyde about a super-powered DJ, but Vince will only do the movie on the condition that he gets to direct, despite having never directed before. Fast forward 8 months and the film is sort of finished, enough that rough cuts are floating about, but is also $15 million over-budget. Whispers are coming out that the film is terrible because Vince refuses to show anybody any cut, and Ari has to suck up to the film’s Texan financiers – a father-son duo (Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment) who are reticent to hand over any cash until the dirtbag son sees the film – otherwise the film is going to bomb and everyone’s careers – including those of Vince’s friends, his manager E (Kevin Connolly), his older half-brother Drama (Kevin Dillon) who has a small but crucial role in Hyde, and his other friend Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) – are going to come crashing down as a result.
There are so many systemic flaws with this set-up, albeit systemic flaws brought on through consciously terrible screenwriting and structure, that it’s honestly hard to know where to begin. What it mainly comes down to, though, is the fact that there is no actual struggle depicted on film. None. Not one second of Vince actually making the movie is shown, despite Turtle even asking outright prior to the film’s cut to titles as to whether Vince even knows how to direct. He just makes a movie, just like that, really easily. He’s $15 million over-budget, but that doesn’t matter, because Vince has made a masterpiece and we know this because, and this is despite the 3 minutes of the film that we actually get to see and what looks like something a 13 year-old Zack Snyder would have cooked up, everyone won’t stop banging on about how brilliant it is. It’s so good that it will be a commercial sensation, a critical darling, and an awards-season front-runner if only it could be finished and released.
The only things standing in Hyde’s way are Vince’s insecurities over the film possibly not being any good, which only manifest themselves maybe twice in the film’s entire 104 minute runtime, and Haley Joel Osment who seems to have legitimate concerns and feedback that Vince and co. seemingly couldn’t see and aren’t receptive to because they’re too close to the project. This looks like a set-up for a battle about artistic integrity and the push-pull nature of working with financiers, it certainly gives the film’s writer and director Doug Ellin plenty of time and room to rant about the crushing nature of studio executives and how brilliant the artist can be if you were to just leave them in peace. But (VAGUE SPOILERS, SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU CARE) then it turns out that Osment just has a vendetta against Vince because of a girl and everything just kind of works itself out.
So, there’s no struggle, and there are also no real stakes. Everybody constantly frets about how their careers are screwed if this movie fails, they go on and on and on about it. But the film is a masterpiece, apparently, and if it would just be finished, everybody would be vindicated. So, no matter how much Piers Morgan spends a good five minute stretch of the film underlining in neon red marker pen how much is on the line for our cast, nothing feels like it has any real weight to it. There’s certainly no risk, Vince is still ridiculously rich and – supposedly, I did not make it far enough into the show to find out myself – has made a comeback from an awful bomb before, Ari is still extremely rich and his tenacity will certainly land him a job somewhere else, whilst Turtle has made so much of an undisclosed fortune from his vodka business that he could single-handedly support the lot of them if everything did come crashing down.
In a way, this could be mined for satire, to contrast everybody’s well-off, secured and privileged positions in life with how much of a life-or-death deal they are making about Hyde, using it to interrogate the self-centred and egotistical nature of Hollywood and its unhealthy desire that everything must be the biggest hit possible. But it doesn’t. Not once does it even approach doing that. Instead, Entourage wants you to sit there and genuinely fear for its cast’s future prospects, even though everything, and I do mean everything, in this movie just sort of works itself out. Eric, who is on yet another break from his heavily pregnant girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), has been sleeping around indiscriminately with various women across Los Angeles and it seems like his actions have finally caught up with him and conspired to teach him a lesson… but then everything is revealed to be nothing much important at all and he and Sloan finish the movie exactly the way that you’re expecting them to.
No, I was not going to make it through a detailed deconstruction of Entourage without touching on its rampant sexism, don’t be surprised. The problem with its treatment of women is not just that they’re barely written degrading stereotypes of either worthless bangable eye-candy or nagging shrews who are bad for our boys and who constantly demean them for their refusal to “be a man”, nor is it just the fact that the cast we’re supposed to like and sympathise with treat them as nothing but bragging rights accomplishments instead of people. It’s that the film agrees with them and it agrees with their behaviour.
Because it refuses to interrogate its characters, to hold them accountable for their actions and personalities, it instead celebrates their behaviour, it celebrates their braggadocio, and it agrees that women are only good as a walking parade of potential conquests, so pretty much none of them get anything resembling a personality. And since there’s no one female character in the film with enough of a drawn personality – or enough self-respect to not have their lives revolve around at least one member of our cast – to successfully fight against that assumption, the film ends up portraying a glorification of the dismissive dude-bro “women are just objects” lifestyle that is toxic and incredibly out-of-touch with our slowly-progressing society.
Entourage is so in love with its cast, so uncritically and self-indulgently in love with its loathsome and insufferable cast, that it frequently steps away from the main plot to pad out its excruciatingly long 104 minutes with endless amounts of subplots and filler. This is why I mentioned earlier that the film barely has what we would usually consider a main plot, because we frequently shift focus away from it for extended periods devoted to the rest of the cast and their pointless, inevitably women and resultantly sex-related problems – E’s fooling around coming back to bite him (that ultimately leads to nothing), Drama’s fooling around causing the leakage of a sex tape (that ultimately leads to nothing), Turtle’s attempts at courting Ronda Rousey (that might as well lead to nothing, so muted is the payoff), Ari’s stress as a studio head adversely affecting his marriage (which just kind of stops being a problem at some point) – and then literal time-wasting, like checking in with Ari’s old gay assistant Lloyd (Rex Lee) who is adamant on having Ari walk him down the aisle at his wedding for some reason, and cameos. Lots and lots of cameos.
I get why cameos aren’t supposed to be a problem in Entourage. It’s set in Hollywood, it is in theory supposed to be a send-up and satire of Hollywood, so it makes sense that celebrities would just wander in and out of the film playing assholish versions of themselves. I get that. The problem here is that the cameos are nowhere near as smooth as that, almost all of them written in such an attention-calling self-conscious way that the film might as well flash a giant “APPLAUSE” sign at the top of the screen every time someone relatively famous walks on. “Look, kids! It’s Pharrell! Clap! Clap harder, dammit!” At one point, the film stops dead during a time-sensitive race sequence to have Jessica Alba remind us all that Jessica Alba still exists. It manages the smoothness and low-key nature that the cameo concept teases precisely once – when Ari just happens to pull up next to Liam Neeson at a stop-light and is promptly flipped off in response – the rest of the time it simply drags the film down to the equivalent of a very special sitcom episode starring somebody who is actually famous and whose mere walking onto set can cause hysterical applause from the studio audience for a solid minute.
That’s very fitting, since this movie only qualifies for that movie designation purely by being just over three times the length of a standard episode of the show and being released in cinemas. This is an unbearably long film despite being about 20 minutes shorter than most comedy films nowadays, because it has so little actual content to go around, compounded by the lack of stakes and the total lack of any forward momentum because, hey, everything’s guaranteed to turn out alright in at least some way so why bother? The structure of a typical Entourage episode is the same thing, but that only has to exist in 30 minute chunks so it doesn’t feel like an absolute eternity and a half. It’s basically a hang-out movie, but why on Earth would I ever want to spend 100-odd minutes hanging out with such utterly abhorrent people?
Then there are the little things, the little details that bugged the crap out of me. The film supposedly takes place, initially 9 days and later, 8 months after the TV show wrapped up in 2011, yet it clearly takes place in and makes multiple references to the world of 2015 – more recent stars like Ronda Rousey and Emily Ratajkowski, references to things like Uber, etc. It fundamentally misunderstands how the Golden Globes work, referring to their awards as solely things like “Best Film” and “Best Supporting Actor” instead of with their “Drama” and “Comedy/Musical” distinctions. The mere fact that we are supposed to believe that Hyde – a $115 million superhero DJ movie starring Calvin Harris as the villain – is going to be a critical darling, a box office smash, and a serious awards season contender in-universe. They’re small, but they’re emblematic of exactly how little of a crap Doug Ellin or really anybody gave about this movie. “Who cares about the particulars? Let’s just hang out for a bit and film whatever we come up with! They gave us $30 million, and it’s not like anybody who doesn’t already like us is going to care what we make!”
And the worst part, the absolute worst part, is that not a single bit of this angered or enraged me. It still doesn’t, because the film is just so utterly BORING! It’s not interestingly awful enough, it’s not incompetently directed enough, it’s not offensive enough to be entertainingly bad or enraging. It certainly isn’t wild enough, crazy enough, or offensive enough to be a guilty pleasure. Despite supposedly being the reason why most people stuck with Entourage, Ari is just not cartoonishly offensive enough to cross over into being funny, he’s just a racist, sexist, homophobic jerk who is nonetheless somebody we should root for to succeed for some reason – he’s no Malcolm Tucker. Like the show it spawned from, Entourage is just incredibly and endlessly boring, which is somehow even worse than being reprehensible garbage. At least reprehensible garbage is worth 2,400 words and counting of analysis.
This is almost unquestionably the worst film I have seen and will see all year. I certainly won’t experience a bigger waste of time this year than sitting through one showing of Entourage. This really is the film version of the television show it spawned from – a self-involved, self-obsessed monument to its own continued existence. One that refuses to even so much as hint at legitimate stakes, to even so much as glance in the general direction of satire, and to even so much as provide a single thought on the excess privilege its cast shares or their horrendously callous and borderline sociopathic attitudes towards women, instead throwing an endless celebratory rager about its awful toxic lifestyle. It is a film without a point, a film without a real plot, a film without any stakes, and a film without a single reason to exist. And yet it exists anyway, chewing up value filmmaking resources and cinema space that could be better served on thousands of better and more worthwhile features instead.
So, to close, I would politely like to request for 104 minutes of my life back and for Entourage, Doug Ellin, everybody involved in the creation of this film, and the entire miserable cesspool of a lifestyle that this series represents and glorifies, to kindly go and fuck themselves. Have a nice day.