D: Max Joseph. DP: Brett Pawlak. W: Max Joseph & Meaghan Oppenheimer. Starring: Zac Efron/Wes Bentley/Emily Ratajkowski/Jonny Weston/Shiloh Fernandez/Alex Shaffer/Jon Bernthal.
As summer winds down some studios try to ride the wave of a movie heavy summer and catch the kids before they head back to school. We Are Your Friends is perfectly timed and with a hashtag no less. But its soundtrack is better than its script so I’d put that on your spotify and forget about this one, friends.
The film follows wannabe DJ Cole Carter (Zac Efron) as he meets mentor James Reed (Wes Bentley) who shows him the ups and downs of his desired profession. Meanwhile Cole grapples with his childhood friend group and budding romance with James’ live in assistant/gal pal Sophia (Emily Ratajkowski). Sadly the script is like a how to of screenwriting. First time feature writer/director Max Joseph and his co-writer Meaghan Oppenheimer create a clear A story line and a clear B story line. Conventionally it works of course, but it is weak. Our protagonist has a secret heart of gold and tragedy will strike.
The most memorable element of We Are Your Friends is the use of writing slides and texts as Cole describes how he feels music with the crowd. Yet this is also coupled with such literal understanding of sound to music that is frankly infuriating. Attempting to authenticate the DJ as an artist fails when the creative process is revealed to be so basic, even if the end result is a good tune. The writing is strongest when dealing with the dynamic between friends who clearly need a change of scenery from their hometown. We Are Your Friends is a very LA specific story and although geography is explained it might not translate well to someone who hasn’t lived in that part of California. The group of boys have chemistry though, which helps the film on its ride through Cole’s experiences.
Efron’s career is repetitive and full of creative non-starts. He’s pretty to look at sure and has charisma, but his project choices are just boring. He proved he has comedy timing in 17 Again, which he had to do in order to play a younger Matthew Perry. His last decent project was probably the sweaty and complex thriller The Paperboy in 2012, but my favorite bit of work of his is the drug illusion of Josh Radnor’s character in his directorial debut Liberal Arts. Efron needs more meat to chew on than just flexing what’s on his upper body, but who knows if he even wants that chance. He did consent to a few gratuitous shower scenes so there’s that.
Wes Bentley, on a bit of a resurgence, is decent and newcomer Emily Ratajowski (Gone Girl) is sadly just the girl here. And any excuse to get her dancing in a small outfit is done. Ultimately We Are Your Friends would work as a ten minute short film as then Joseph would have been forced to limit the amount of music video/slow motion/dance sequences in the film. After about three, maybe four, sitting in a theater you just can’t have fun watching a party happen you aren’t a part of. Especially when it all starts to look the same.