AM At The Movies: ‘We Are Your Friends’

Above: Zac Efron stars in 'We Are Your Friends'

We Are Your Friends
Zac Efron, Emily Ratajkowski, Wes Bentley
Director: Max Joseph (Catfish: The TV Show)
Run Time: 96 minutes

Let me get one thing out of the way up front: I like Zac Efron. I think he’s one of those dudes that is going to figure it out in about 10 years and start stringing together dynamic performances that make you say, “Holy s@&$! Look at Zac Efron killing it!” but he’s not there yet and in this movie, he’s not even close to there.

We Are Your Friends feels like director Max Joseph – who co-wrote the script with Meaghan Oppenheimer – took a four-minute EDM music video starring Zac Efron and Emily Ratajkowski and decided he wanted to know the backstory between the two people that meet, are clearly smitten with each other, engage, fracture and reconnect.

As a four-minute Vevo offering, you’ve got something there. As a 96-minute movie where none of the actors exhibit any genuine chemistry with one another, you’ve got a collection of missteps and mistakes that comes off more like a laptop DJ 8 Mile wannabe for the millennial generation. Does any of that sound good to you?

Efron plays aspiring DJ Cole Carter. He gets one night a week for free at a local club, where his friends help promote, one sells some drugs on the side and they make what they classify as mediocre money for a couple hours of work and a bunch of free drinks. He lives in the pool house at his friend’s parent’s place. He makes beats, smokes some weed, jogs, and craves more, but like the rest of his 20-something slacker-ass friends that call the San Fernando Valley home, he doesn’t have the hustle to make anything real happen for himself.

He meets a noteworthy DJ (Bentley) whom he feels has lost his edge, but proceeds to look to him as a mentor and BFF, all while having a massive crush on his girlfriend-assistant (Ratajkowski), who is clearly fed up with washed up, drunk DJ Wesley B. You can probably guess how this arc plays out.

Without getting into the details, We Are Your Friends follows all the notes of a typical “I’m just trying to make it” movie without having the heart and soul of some of the better films from the genre. At the same time, it goes weak in the other spaces it could go hard in too – wimping out on the nerdy music side of things when it would have been better off taking the Whiplash route and having Efron tell his friends and everyone else that he doesn’t have time for them a la obsessive drummer Miles Teller.

Instead, you get a couple narrated tutorials from DJ Cole, one very quick “this is the part you’re missing, kid” speech from the sage-old mentor DJ Wesley B, who is maybe 35 tops and Efron rocking the crowd at the end because of course that’s how it works out.

At least “B-Rabbit” went back to work after tearing it up at The Shelter. With DJ Cole, you just assume everything is going to be aces the rest of the way – the life he wants, the girl of his dreams, the success he barely worked for. “Here you go, kid – enjoy!”

This is a millennial movie where Efron is the down-on-his-luck version of a millennial – a guy that appears to work a couple days of the week tops, hangs out drinking and smoking with his buds, scamming on girls, and can’t for the life of him understand why things haven’t panned out for him yet.

There is a bit in the trailer (and the film, obviously) where DJ Cole explains what it takes to get your break as a potential superstar DJ. His formula is Laptop + Some Talent + A Track = SUCCESS. I’m pretty sure that is actually what a lot of the millennial generation and the people that are going to love this movie actually believe and in 99/100 cases, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

And the ironic thing is thing is that making a movie about what it actually takes to make it as a creative type – be it musician, painter, actor, writer, whatever – has been done really well a couple times in the past. The elements are there for a movie that really works, but instead, it lacks real soul and passion… kind of like the generic EDM DJ Cole cranks up to 11.

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