We Are Your Friends is Hollywood’s attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) scene that has swept the United States over the past 5 years. It stars Zac Efron (Neighbors, High School Musical), Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games, American Beauty) and newcomer Emily Ratajkowski (Entourage, Gone Girl) in writer/director Max Joseph’s first feature film.
I know what your thinking and can feel your eye rolling from here, but you’re wrong. Despite the EDM backdrop it is not about the music scene. The music and DJing are simply the catalysts for a coming-of-age drama reminiscent of 80’s cinema. Cole (Efron) is an aspiring DJ from the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. His crew aspire to be Hollywood nightclub royalty while living with their parents and piling into the only rundown vehicle between the 4 of them. Being a Hollywood DJ myself I can vouch for the authenticity of the first 20-minutes in which it is apparent that in the post recession club world a DJ is expected to have more of a mastery of social media than mixing music. Spinning the side room, a mandatory guest list minimum and the sad job of rounding up women for VIP tables is the belittling reality of the job, earning them a few hundred dollars if done correctly. The dream is dangled like a carrot seemingly attainable but painfully out of reach.
Enter Wes Bentley’s character, James, the veteran DJ from the rave era of the 90’s/early 2000’s now on top of the world thanks to the mainstream industry jumping on the EDM bandwagon. Think David Guetta or Kaskade, the guys with strong House credentials when being a House producer/DJ didn’t make you rich but have since become Vegas and tour headliners raking in Millions each year thanks to their newer more commercial sound. James and his girlfriend Sophie (Ratajkowski) take a liking to Cole and they bring him under their loving wings exposing him to the pool parties of the Hollywood hills, exclusive bottle service clubs in Beverly Hills, behind the scenes of the festivals and, most importantly, how to professionally produce a Dance song in a real studio.
All this gives the movie direction but the true story is the love triangle between Cole, Sophie and James. The subplot revolves around the core group of friends and their struggles to work and stay afloat in the Valley despite all the potential fame and vices just beyond the hills that confine them. A strong foundation but, as his first feature, Joseph stumbles in many areas. The mentor/Mentee relationship between Cole and James is very believable and offers the most depth. The reveal about Sophie’s past and reason for being with the much older James is a very common and real tale for those who escape to Los Angeles. The friends who give up on their dreams and submit themselves to a 9-to-5 life is very grounding when Joseph could have easily gone much cheesier and happier. The problem with We Are Your Friends is the third chapter of the film where it’s obvious Joseph has no clue where to go with the story. It’s at this point where the contrived melodrama starts to pop up back-to-back. What was a set up to be a surprisingly solid film and possibly generation defining tale of youth in this decade, a la Saturday Night Fever, slips from Joseph’s fingers to be something forgettable in the end.
The film is backed by a solid soundtrack of aughts Electro bangers (Fake Blood, Justice vs Simian) and current popular sub-genres from Deep House (Oliver $, Tchami) to Big Room (Will Sparks, The Americanos) to Trap (Carnage, Bro Safari). Friends should be a modest earner as a date night movie for the 18-30 demo and with a small budget could pull a minor profit. Ultimately it is destined to be a Redbox hit and I’m sure it wont be long before it is out of the theater and available for rent.
In theaters August 28th the film is rated R and distributed by Warner Bros. Films.
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