Kevin Hart’s Twitter profile puts things in perspective when he states that, “Everybody Wants To Be Famous But Nobody Wants To Do The Work.” That is the summary behind many a person’s ambitions and dreams. And this is sort of where up and coming DJ Cole Carter (Zac Efron) finds himself. Not so much not wanting to put in the work to get where he wants to go, but being caught in his friends’ dreams of making millions when that isn’t necessarily the reality. So much of We Are Your Friends is essentially trivial and brandishes its melodrama at us while alternating between being semi-entertaining and cliché.
In between working as a DJ in the clubs of LA’s San Fernando Valley and his close friendships with Mason (Jonny Weston), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez), and Squirrel (Alex Shaffer), Cole doesn’t have much else going for him. He’s in the time of his life when it’s all about partying and living it up without being held responsible for anything. So it’s a very in-between time, caught right in the midst of becoming an adult.
Believing in his music and its freshness in comparison to popular DJ James Reed (Wes Bentley), whom Cole believes to be a sellout, the young dreamer wants to have the kind of success that takes him to clubs around the world and makes him a lot of money. But after James takes interest in his music producing skills and befriends him, Cole finds himself caught in the middle of a romance with Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski)–who happens to be James’s girlfriend–his future as a DJ, and his friends.
The film’s cinematography is excellent. All the club scenes are shot as though you’re following around a tipsy person. The montages filled with music make you want to be caught in the moment and the music alone makes you want to get up, dance, and be free. These are the things that make We Are Your Friends solidly entertaining and take you into the film, getting lost in its ambitions and musical escapism, if even for a moment.
The characters and story, however, leave much to be desired. Efron, as far as he’s come since High School Musical, still makes it hard to believe that he’s a hipster DJ just trying to make it in the world. Perhaps it’s director Max Joseph’s over-reliance on long looks of emotion, angst, and wanting by Efron, but there’s just something that never quite clicks with the audience on an emotional level. Wes Bentley’s character is alcohol-ridden and bitter but his initially forced friendship with Efron make for the better scenes in the film. There’s some kind of understanding between them that we immediately get.
The romance between Efron and Ratajkowski has its moments and at least doesn’t create too much contrived drama between the pair and Bentley, but Ratajkowski doesn’t have all that much to do except pout with a straight face. And Jon Bernthal’s devious businessman story arc is left neglected on the sidelines. The overall story isn’t as emotionally gripping as you want it to be and there’s some forced drama between the four friends that is unnecessarily used to make a point, but it falls on deaf ears since the overall friendship is underdeveloped and not engaging.
We Are Your Friends won’t make you want to be any of these characters’ friends. Even the saddening event that happens later on, and serves as the turning point for Efron’s character, lands no impact. The saving grace of the entire film is the Electronica beats pumping their way throughout. Loud and contagious, the music is great even if its only company is a script without any real drive or ambition.
Release Date: August 28, 2015 | Director: Max Joseph | Screenwriters: Max Joseph, Meaghan Openheimer | Cast: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Johnny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, Jon Bernthal | Genre: Drama, Music | MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout, drug use, sexual content and some nudity