MOVIE REVIEW: ‘We Are Your Friends’ Isn’t That Fresh New Track You Wanted

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Film: We Are Your Friends
Starring: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski
Directed by: Max Joseph

Electronic dance music culture (EDM, in shorthand), the craze sucking in millenials left and right, has become the subject of many recent films directed at the younger moviegoing demographics. In Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden (read my review here), an aspiring DJ from Paris is followed from selling out local clubs to playing at birthday parties for children. The EDM zeitgeist is tapped into by way of someone who started the “French Touch” subgenre, showing off why this kind of music connects with people while humbly showing a genius at work on a turntable.

We Are Your Friends has no interest in exploring a culture much maligned for its denizen’s rampant drug abuse. Instead, it wants to present a flashy and surface-level journey of one twenty-something aspiring DJ filled with generic angst as he rises to stardom and forgets about the friends that drag him down. Like the keystrokes of an electronic musician filled with self-importance and naivety, We Are Your Friends is a track sampled from so many other artists it ends up being a complete tonal misfire.

Cole Carter (Zac Efron), the genius at work, is an aspiring electronic music artist playing shows in the side room of a local club in a humdrum California valley town. His friends Mason (Jonny Weston), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) and Squirrel (Alex Shaffer) are the hype men behind the operation and also sell drugs on the side to make ends meet. When Cole is chosen to be the next muse of the prolific DJ, James Reed (Wes Bentley), alliances with his old life are tested. Reed’s girlfriend/assistant, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), also threatens to destroy the new familial bond between James and Cole with her feminine wiles.

I can see the pull quotes now: “Boogie Nights for the EDM crowd!” “The Wolf of Wall Street but for hero DJs!” All shallow comparisons and probable misquotes, of course. The most dialogue we get from Cole is in the form of sales pitches for his music. He smoothly talks about how he can control an audience’s heartbeat like he’s some master hypnotist. Those lines get accompanied by flash montages of x-ray imagery of his listeners’ hearts beating as rapidly as they can. A bullshit artist for the millennial masses, if you will. Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street) even plays a skeevy real estate developer who steals foreclosed homes out from under their owners and sells them for an extremely large profit! He talks exactly like DiCaprio in Scorsese’s masterpiece, just without the irony. Everything is gospel here.

People feel left out, tensions rise, bonds are broken, people have sex and drugs are done in We Are Your Friends. There’s tons of visual flair covering up the story’s shallow, morally redemptive machinations. Whether that makes up for it is a totally different story. Efron parodied bro culture in Neighbors. He embraces it in this. The hedonistic need to screw every girl at a party is here by way of his toothy grin. Jonny Weston’s Mason is the comedic relief. Laugh at his charm! See as he stumbles into sex with loose women! Try not to cringe when people die because of his drug-dealing negligence!

Bentley’s Reed is called upon to inspire Cole, push him to the limits of his creativity. Teach him how to realize his full potential. Never mind, seeing their relationship broken down by one drunken night is convenient to moving the plot along. Ratajkowski’s Sophie is lusty skin fodder for men to use, abuse and then ditch to the side. The manic pixie dream girl for molly-popping woo-boys. She’s only called upon to dance salaciously and return Cole’s advances.

We Are Your Friends could be deemed harmless if you boil it down to a coming-of-age drama, but it’s so adamant about feeding the selfish needs of its main character that you wish he were cast from his proverbial throne at least once. “Don’t bro me if you don’t know me” says Weston’s Mason. Fine, I won’t.

GRADE: D

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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