Cole Carter (Zac Efron) is a struggling 23-year-old EDM (electronic dance music) DJ who dreams of one day getting his big break.
This already sounds like a billion other movies.
Since selling ecstasy with his dopey friends isn’t the best way to go about earning that break, Cole teams up with James Reed (Wes Bentley), an older, more experienced yet damaged DJ who takes Cole under his wing. However, things get a little messy the moment Cole falls deeply for James’s girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), and that monkey wrench in turn forces him to face some difficult decisions regarding his future.
Being that We Are Your Friends is pretty much a 90-minute – an extremely loooong 90-minutes – music video that has to have set a Guinness World Record for most montages crammed into one movie, I was shocked to discover that this film actually employed two screenwriters. Maybe it was a contractual thing?
Oddly enough, I was looking forward to this film, but not ’cause it was on my most anticipated list. This movie could’ve been the greatest film since The Godfather or the most hysterically awful since The Room; either way, seeing it means I no longer have to sit through another one of its God awful trailers.
I had the same sorta eager anticipation prior to seeing Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.
Crappy title and even crappier trailer aside, We Are Your Friends is a terrible waste of solid cinematography and a strong Wes Bentley performance. I know very little about the EDM scene, so obviously I’m not the target demographic here; however, I somehow managed to walk out knowing less than I did before.
That’s the magic of crappy storytelling, folks.
You’d think a director like Max Joseph, whose prior film was a documentary on the EDM production team DFA, would provide some insight into the EDM culture, but this is all mind-numbing, artificial pop and fizz, and no substance. Sure, Zac Efron gives essentially an “EDM for Dummies” crash course on BPM (Beats Per Minute), but congrats on explaining what even beginner musicians of any genre already know. The only authentic aspect of this film comes from Bentley’s character who shares the film’s very few inspired moments with Efron. Centering on those two would’ve made for a much more meaningful film, but We Are Your Friends distractingly detours down The Wolf of Wall Street territory with a superfluous subplot involving Efron’s Cole working for a real estate shark (a wasted Jon Bernthal), as well as the innumerable amount of mindless montages that clutter up the screen.
Worst of all, Efron is saddled with the most gratingly douchy trio of friends (Jonny Weston turned in a solid performance in the below average Project Almanac, but is unbearably obnoxious here). There’s no character growth between any of the four; we learn nothing of them over the course of the film other than that they love selling ecstasy at raves, and they certainly never once come off like the poor, working class, struggling artists we’re supposed to believe they are. Yet this movie still has the balls to demand we feel sorry for the gang when tragedy befalls one of them. It’s a manipulative “teachable moment” that doesn’t ring true at all.
Efron’s much more talented than his filmography suggests. He’s delivered fine work before in Me and Orson Welles and The Paperboy, and provided some laughs, along with Rose Byrne, in Neighbors. He has a likeable screen presence that’s evident in this film, but the material does him no favors whatsoever. Unlike her co-star, the striking Emily Ratajkowski hasn’t been given many opportunities to prove what talent she may have, aside from brief appearances in Gone Girl and Entourage. No doubt, she has a presence that’s absolutely magnetic, but the same can’t be said of her performance, nor the chemistry she shares with Efron.
As for the music, it’s no more memorable than the background score to an Education Connection commercial. You expect the buildup to Cole’s one shot at stardom to be worth the buildup, but the only thing memorable about it is that Efron reminded me of a carny operator running the Himalaya revving up the riders by screaming, “YOU STILL WANNA GO FASTER??!! LET ME HEAR YOU SCREEEEAAAAM!!!!!!!!!!!!”
We Are Your Friends gets some spark from a few stylistic touches and a great, though greatly undeserved, performance from Wes Bentley, but its tediously conventional narrative and severe lack of any character development take style over substance to a new depressing low, wasting once again the potential Zac Efron has previously shown in better films. For a movie that’s supposed to be all about energy and pumping up the audience, this lethargic dud does a damn good job at knocking said audience out cold.
I give We Are Your Friends a D (★).