"I might need to jerk it before we even get to the boat."
This is the first line, spoken by Johnny "Drama" Chase (Kevin Dillon), in the motion picture Entourage. The film is a continuation of the television show of the same name, which ran for eight more or less culturally uncontested seasons on HBO. It's been over three years since Vince and the boys rode their twin private jets into the sunset, and almost five since series creator Doug Ellin initially floated the idea of a movie. In the interim, a lot has changed: TV has become fertile ground for stories about complex female characters, everyone got really into a show about dragons, and Broad City exists. The world and moment that Entourage encapsulated seems woefully outdated.
Except not, because Entourage exists outside the reaches of time, space, and logic, and if you told me it never actually ended and I've actually been mumbling "Oh yay-yuh! Oh yay-yuh!" along with the Jane's Addiction theme song for the past three years, I might believe you.
Before we go any further, I must admit a bias — not that I'm an Entourage superfan; I was never a terribly faithful viewer of the show, and I definitely have not seen every episode, especially in the later, increasingly rote seasons. But I have spent the last 48-plus hours locked in an entirely voluntary marathon of the first two seasons, and they have pervaded my headspace to such a degree that I felt almost personally affronted when the entire theater at the press screening I attended did not burst out in riotous applause at the first aerial shot of the boys cruising in a motorboat off the coast of Ibiza. After the past several days stewing in the bro-verse, this felt like a towering cinematic moment on the order of the Star Wars title zooming back into the stars to John Williams fanfare. Like I said, I came in with a bias.
Everything will work out fine
To submit yourself to the world of Entourage is to surrender any expectation of so much of what we associate with satisfying television: tension, stakes, darkness. The first two seasons feel like a hallucination: we are presented with this entitled, variously simpleminded group of men, the leader of which lives by the shockingly durable philosophy that "everything will work out fine." We are trained, by centuries of storytelling tradition, to take that as an omen. Oh, that's what someone says right before he walks into a manhole, we think. Part of Entourage's crazy-making charm is that the manhole never materializes. Sure, there are hitches and bumps along the way — fudged deals, a cocaine addiction — but Vincent Chase never gets a lasting comeuppance for all his boorish ways.
And that's what makes 10 episodes — and yes, a feature-length film — melt by in what seems like a half-hour, give or take. I never checked my clock during the entirety of the Entourage movie — I thought about it, but then preferred to marvel at the fact that I could not tell if 20 minutes or two hours had gone by. From a formally critical standpoint, I think that might be a good thing.
The plot of Entourage concerns what so many plots of Entourage have concerned: the making of a film. We catch up with the dudes mere weeks after the events of the finale; Vince's marriage to a hot Vanity Fair writer lasted all of five days, and he's back on the market, hosting a yacht party full of the requisite topless babes. He also has decided that he wants to direct a film, and because he is Vincent Chase, he will indeed direct a film.
Entourage, god bless it, has always been incredibly smart about what it chooses to yadda-yadda. We immediately flash forward eight months — Vince's directorial debut Hyde is in the can, and is being shepherded by superagent-turned-studio head Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven; what, you didn't really think Ari was out of the game, did you?). His former driver Sal "Turtle" Assante (Jerry Ferrara) is now a multimillionaire with a successful tequila business, and his manager / best dude Eric "E" Murphy (Kevin Connolly) is expecting the birth of his son with OTP babymama Sloane any day. I have to say, you don't miss those eight months. Entourage has never been about the joys and struggles of making the films that its characters rely on for cash flow. It's always been about the joys and sorrows — okay, mostly joys — of the cash flow.
Entourage has always been smart about what it chooses to yadda-yadda
I now realize I need to back up for a second and talk about Hyde. Oh lordy, Hyde. We see what amounts to a trailer-length montage of Vince's passion project, and goddammit, I wish that the movie had just cut out and the ushers had escorted us to the theatre next door to watch the whole thing. Hyde, as it may surprise some LA lifers to know, is not a filmic adaptation of the notorious celeb hangout that enjoyed its heyday about the same time Entourage enjoyed its. Hyde takes place in a dystopic future Los Angeles, where Vince plays some kind of underworld DJ who feeds people floating golden molly-pellets while they rave under a bridge. (Wait ... maybe it is an adaptation?) Vince wears a hoodie and broods a lot. It's basically the music video for Britney Spears' Til The World Ends, except we are told its running time is two hours.
Everyone, from Ari to Dana Gordon (Constance Zimmer's lovely, witty saving grace of Entourage's willful woman problem) agree that Hyde is a masterpiece. This we accept. Everyone, that is, except Travis McCreadle (Haley Joel Osment), son of oil tycoon Larsen McCreadle (Billy Bob Thornton), whose approval and checkbook stand in the way of Hyde getting locked. Yes, Haley Joel Osment and Billy Bob Thornton are in the Entourage movie. This we accept. They are not playing themselves, like so many of the film's never-ending cascade of gag cameos (there are too many to list here, just watch the trailer), they are playing Texas oil tycoons. This we accept.
The reason behind Haley Joel Osment's hesitance — really, the only significant obstacle to the boys' happiness, which is incredible, when you think about it — is so stupid and inconsequential that you probably wouldn't believe me if I spoiled it. Needless to say, everything works out in the end for all the boys, even for the perpetually beleaguered Johnny Drama, who, in addition to setting the tone in the aforementioned opening moments of the film, is the star of its last, completely unearned, but nonetheless satisfying moment of triumph. The film ends with nary a beat of real doubt or uncertainty as to the fate of our heroes. The experience of watching it is like being nudged out of a coma for an hour and a half, then gently coaxed back into it.
like being nudged out of a coma, then gently coaxed back into it
You might be waiting for the angry feminist lambasting of this film and the show that preceded it, the caveman-like approach to gender and sexuality that have been baked into its brand since the pilot. I'm sorry to disappoint, but you won't find it here. There is a certain class of clueless bro-dom so insistent that it renders itself benign; it comes with its own argument for its ridiculousness. I am aware that there are many fans of Entourage who unironically delight in its hedonistic spoils of patriarchy, but one of the only real tensions of the show all these years has been trying to decipher its degree of self-awareness. In many ways it is a farce, but to characterize it purely as a send-up of the misogyny of Hollywood would probably be giving Ellin and executive producer Mark Wahlberg too much credit. Entourage likes the world it has created for itself, but it is by no means trying to spread a gospel of tits and 'raris and multimillion dollar contracts, in the way that, say, True Detective really needs you to believe that "we get the world we deserve." Entourage is happy to splash around in its own fetid Cristal-filled kiddy pool and leave it at that.
Of course, nothing can truly exist in a bubble, and while Entourage is itself an inert object, the culture it's a reflection of is not. But I choose to accept this with nihilistic optimism: there's a shortage of odes to male dominance that are genuinely unthreatening enough for non-male viewers to laugh off, in the way so many viewers feel comfortable writing off 21 Dresses or The Other Woman. We're always asked to take silly, fun boy stories seriously on some level, whether as important, "smart-dumb" personality-driven comedy (i.e. any Apatow-verse film) or just really well-constructed entertainment products (i.e. the Fast and Furious movies, which if you think are stupid, means you are objectively no fun). There are so many "women be crazy" films out there, and not nearly enough "white dudes' entitlement be hella pervasive and damaging" films. Entourage oddly fills an important, mostly vacant spot in contemporary storytelling with its own vacancy. If you should ever need to have a good laugh at the expense of the patriarchy, it's waiting for you.