Say you’re in a room and see something so revolting you have to leave. Maybe it’s someone who reminds you of your failures, or the life you couldn’t have, or the anger you buried. You don’t want to leave, but your willpower is no good – this is something deeper than will. It’s something that makes your face redden and your chest tighten before reducing the whole room to an exit and the obstacles in front of it. Maybe it’s survival, maybe it’s just preservation of sanity. It doesn’t matter in the moment. You’re already gone.
I was in a movie theater with my brother. The Entourage trailer came on. I felt that something. It was anger and physical revulsion. Maybe it was dread, too. But it was foremost an awareness that my self-control was flying out a window. I started to stand up. I wanted to yell “yeehaw, the American dream is dead!” but instead I mechanically whispered “popcorn” and walked to the lobby with my eyes to the floor. Here, after all, was the enemy. Here was unchecked greed, hedonism, and decadence; West Los Angeles and all its vices attacking me remotely. Back tattoos. Yachts. Private jets. Checkered fedoras. Gary Busey. An entire cast of hollow-eyed rich guys in Polo shirts on the verge of offering you a bump at your boss’s boss’s Fourth of July party in your nightmares. And I was gone, and a coward, and I had to go back. I had to see this movie.
My reason was simple. Morality needs anchors. Sometimes you need to see what you hate to remember what you love and why you love it. Otherwise your worldview becomes a fog of conflicting value systems entertained dispassionately and you forget who you are. Maybe Entourage, the mere suggestion of which had the power to make me leave a room, could bring my fire back.
Then I was in Bakersfield. Muscle memory took me to my old neighborhood movie theater without knowing what street it was on. Such was the destroying force of Entourage that the parking lot was utterly empty, the mall abandoned, and the doors on the movie theater boarded up. At the end of the parking lot a boy of 9 on a good day was riding a skateboard unattended. I turned around and went to the theater across town.
There were twelve people at the other theater, all of them smoking. I bought a ticket and told the girl I was a journalist, which she rightly did not believe.
So what is Entourage? Aside from a physical manifestation of disgust that makes your jaw swing open like a saloon door, it is a continuation of an HBO series. I’ve never seen the show myself. It seems to be one of those meta-shows where Hollywood self-mythologizes under the guise of making fun of itself.
And what is Entourage the movie? Ostensibly it’s a comedy, and it’s directed by somebody named Doug Ellin, and here’s what it is. Write down every single famous person you find detestable and think about why you don’t like them. Well, Doug Ellin loves all those people, they’re his best friends in the world and he cuts out their pictures from the magazines and draws hearts all over them, and he loves them for the same exact reasons you shun them. I mean, look. Mark Wahlberg and Piers Morgan are in this movie. Both of them.
The film opens like the pretty edgy screenplay of your friend who always says he’s filling out job applications but you know it’s online gambling because of the rhythms of his cursing. It’s dudes on a boat. It’s babes on another boat. Some of the babes – shit, hold on just a second, I’m just waiting on the, uh, form to load, shit – some of the babes are topless. The first line is “I may have to jerk it before we even get there.”
After you hear this line, the film ceases to have words in it and becomes a collection of noises overheard in and around Los Angeles County’s finest porn mansions. It’s eleven words and then it’s all static, like an AM radio station three towns over. The static has different rhythms and volumes sometimes, and the impression of words is given, but you’ll almost never hear them. Sometimes you’ll get close, and maybe you’ll even pick up a whole line. But if you succeed it’ll be like setting the high score on a Ms. Pac Man machine in a radiator repair shop: a lonely victory that can never be shared or even explained.
But even without language, we can infer what happens. There’s this actor, see, and he’s got an entourage. The actor has decided to direct because he wants to do something meaningful. The movie he makes, which looks like a trade show video for a gaming-oriented laptop manufacturer, is somehow a brilliant Oscar contender – the Oscars are legitimate in this universe – and the studio is getting in the way. It’s going over budget and the money men are too concerned with the bottom line to see the magic, man. And Jeremy Piven has to cocaine his way out of this whole mess. There you go. That’s what happens.
It’s all a blur, devoid of content, a TV Guide channel PR feature bloated to a wheezing 104 minutes. It is an unrepentant love letter to the types of people who get pulled over on the 101 in yellow Lamborghinis and think the northern border of the known world is the In N Out on Ventura right before it turns into Highland, the one across the street from Vivid. Everybody’s always having a bunch of fake sex and drinking and drugging then having those meaningless epiphanies rich drunks are always having when they have to go outside for five minutes. Of course, naked women are ubiquitous and treated with slightly less humanity than the film’s myriad fresh-off-the-line convertibles.
It’d sure be nice to say Entourage hates women and leave it there, but above all else it just hates people. Actually, it doesn’t even do that. Hate requires passion. This movie, with all the charm of a seasoned leisure class alcoholic, coldly and mechanically celebrates the degradation of humanity. It is a movie with no moral center. A movie with no worldview. A commercial for having a million dollars to kill on the Sunset Strip. It is a monument to avarice so morally broken, so poisoned from the soul outward, that it could make Donald Trump join the church and make Benny Hinn leave it.
But let’s table moral toxicity. There are other cardinal sins to address. This is a comedy with no laughs in it. This is a movie that thinks America is made up of Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and Manhattan. And this is a movie that kills everything good it touches, so its inclusion of Johnny Cash’s “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and the Violent Femmes’ “Add It Up” is abhorrent. And its bit part for the wonderful Judy Greer is beyond forgiveness. The only person who gets out of this movie alive is Billy Bob Thornton, who knows how to treat the material – like 10 to 15 minutes of shooting with no script, no director, and a giant check.
I saw the whole movie. I thought about leaving constantly but didn’t. This was an exercise in will. But when I left, driving past countless old houses that looked the same once but were now crumbling into unique identities, I felt unclean. I was shell-shocked by its tone deaf narcissism and glamorization of unmerited riches. Entourage is a hideous, unwatchable moral low for mainstream filmmaking. But this does not make it fun to watch. If you’re thinking about watching it ironically, to stir up rage, please, do anything else. Go for a walk. Read that book you pretended to read in high school. Stare at a bad painting until you think it means something. Stand in front of a mirror and part your hair in a different direction. Ask your gas station attendant what items people steal most and least often. Tell some trusted family members you’re in jail and figure out if they’re good for the bail. See how far you can throw a rock and then go find the rock. If you do all these things and you still want to see Entourage, do yourself a favor and start a new life somewhere.