Looking at the many critical responses to director Doug Ellin’s swiftly maligned Entourage (2015), it’s easy to forget that the series was well-received – even acclaimed – for most of its seven series run. What’s more curious is that the picture shows great fidelity to the pervadingly low stakes wish-fulfilment fantasy of the show. So what changed? In short, the laddish aspiration of Entourage’s central quartet came to represent the dying breath of a certain ideal of male stardom in the 1990s and 2000s. Sensibilities shifted and the culture became more aware of representation in the arts. The series’ vision of a testosterone-saturated idyll of money, power and naked girls was just another anachronism.
Nobody wanted an Entourage film and boy did we know it. This is by-and-large a narrative of convenience which exaggerates the more contentious elements of the television programme’s aesthetic in order to cast it as a signifier of unchecked male privilege. The truth is that much of Entourage’s front is counterbalanced by a keen sense of self-awareness which operates as something akin to a conscience. Its closest comparator is Sex and the City; both shows commanded respect while they felt novel, but they lost their cache as critical sensibilities changed ahead of the shows, leaving them looking like embarrassing parodies of themselves, ripe for a kicking by all-comers.
It won’t be to everyone’s taste; the jokes are crude, the story is flimsy and the film makes no concessions to those not familiar with the show. The key here is the relationship between satire and vacuity in showbiz narratives. Entourage isn’t critical of Hollywood; it’s in awe of it. It’s curious that we love the movies and yet we are repelled by pictures which leave Hollywood unscathed. Every showbusiness story needn’t be The Player; there is equal value is showing why Hollywood matters to people. The classical American success story is a fairytale, and the protagonists are perpetually amazed at its possibilities. They remember where they came from – as do the creators – and so they respect where they’ve got to. Above all, this is why the film works. Ridiculing the rags-to-riches trajectory is a peculiarly middle class prerogative, but many of those who have come from poverty – with the struggle hard-wired in then – will be sympathetic to the aspiration that underscores some of Entourage’s more objectionable indulgences. The humour – largely made up of base, take-no-prisoner insults – is the bond of the group; boorish masculinity born of necessity. The camaraderie of the boys was forged in the badlands of New York’s outer boroughs. The guys may seek the glitter, but they are still Queens Boulevard. Regardless of the perceived infractions, their their story will still strike a chord with some. Out of the gutter…
Craig Williams | @CraigFilm