We Are Your Friends (2015)

Directed by Max Joseph

Contains spoilers.

When someone makes a movie on a topic or lifestyle that they don't fully understand the result is often terrible. Adding a love story helmed by Zac Efron doesn't do much to make it better. For the most part, that's what we're given in We Are Your Friends.

Director Max Joseph, a somewhat experienced documentarian, brings a google-research quality to his newest endeavor instead of bringing any heart or soul. He misrepresents everything about the electronic dance music culture while trying to provide an earnest tale about growing up and following your dreams. But the truth is: this is just the documentary preceding Zac Efron's eventual announcement that he's starting a career as a DJ.

We Are Your Friends follows Cole Carter's attempts to become a successful DJ. He hangs out with his three, best friends who all support him. There's the loud asshole, the wannabe actor, and the quiet thinker, in addition to Cole, the wannabe famous DJ; the group works and parties together, seemingly in a universal effort to make Cole a success so they can ride his coattails out of the San Fernando Valley. After one of his sets at a local nightclub, Cole meets a popular DJ, James Reed, outside the club who lights up a joint for them to share and invites him to a party. After the party, Reed introduces Cole to his girlfriend and assistant, Sophie, and shows Cole around his music studio. Thus begins their mentorship. Reed helps Cole realize his musical potential while Cole continues to fuck about with his friends, partying and dealing drugs and eventually joining a sketchy realty business to make more money.

What begins with a surprising amount of promise turns into a dreary, inept, and utterly predictable movie trying to be deep. The EDM culture is portrayed as a drug-fueled frenzy that's inhabited by assholes who love to fight, steal girlfriends, and basically just make bad life decisions, alienating an entire demographic while trying to make up for it by having a soundtrack of mostly dance music and an ex-teen-heartthrob as the main character who tries valiantly to look like a serious musician.

...with such a terrible story it was doomed from the start.

 

Cole Carter is the embodiment of a keyboard musician. Or he seems to be. There's a whole group of real life musicians with talent who simply want to make music. But Cole wants nothing more than to be famous and make money, which is almost sad, because he does know about music and has a good ear, but in his own words he's just trying to make "that one track" that can pave the way for further success. And, similar to his friends, he cares more about being popular and having fun than just about anything else, except maybe making money. But director Joseph tries desperately to turn the group of friends into a sympathetic group that's just going through a tough time. Unfortunately, they're all just lazy assholes who've made bad choices.

Featuring some terrible, predictable, cookie cutter dialogue, Reed gives Cole advice about his music, and Cole listens. During a fateful run his phone dies, forcing him to listen to the world around him as he runs, which sparks an epiphany: do what Reed said. He records a bunch of sounds on his phone and plays around with them on his computer, a dramatic and supposedly artistic moment. Despite Cole stealing Reed's girlfriend (in an unbelievably annoying fall-in-love scene in Vegas) they makeup, and Reed takes Cole to the ubiquitously named Summerfest as his opener. This leads to an utterly artless and painful climax, with Cole shouting, "Are we ever gonna be better than this!?" into the mic, echoing his recording of Squirrel, the shy and quiet thinker of the group.

What started as a potentially cool-looking movie about DJing and a group of friends with dreams quickly turns into a dragging affair of electronic dance music exploitation and buffoonery and cuckoldry that every single audience member sees coming. The movie becomes so much of an ordeal that it seems almost like a repeating slap in the face for fans of EDM, culminating in a cacophony of "organic" sounds recorded by Cole as the opening to his new track, which turns out to be a very mediocre and forgettable song, with Joseph apparently trying to show us that any random quote can be turned into a thumping electro track as long as it's sufficiently "organic" and the DJ shouts it to the crowd like it's something memorable and meaningful out of a speech.

I understand what Joseph was trying to do with the power of choices and making sure you do something meaningful and productive with your time, if you choose not to go to college, and your dreams. But he utterly fails to do anything good with the movie, even settling for a been-there-done-that story devoid of any kind of originality or fun.

 
 

TL;DR: I was holding onto some small bit of hope that maybe a Zac Efron movie would be okay. I was wrong. This is like a Lifetime movie that everyone mistook for a blockbuster because the leading man used to be a teen heartthrob. The entirety is meh, with a side dish of meh, which needs to be followed up with good electronic music to make up for it. There isn't a single thing about this movie that could turn it into something good; with such a terrible story it was doomed from the start.

  • Acting – 7 / 20
  • Story – 0 / 20
  • Cinematography – 10 / 20
  • Soundtrack – 7 / 10
  • Entertainment Factor – 5 / 10
  • Drama/Romance – 3 / 10
  • Other – 0 / 10
 

Grade F = 32 / 100