Eye For Film >> Movies >> We Are Your Friends (2015) Film Review
We Are Your Friends
Reviewed by: Luke Shaw
Hot on the heels of Eden, a French film that attempted to take club culture, and treat it as a serious subject worthy of documentation, We Are Your Friends takes audiences into the world of American EDM in an attempt to try and lend some authenticity to the much maligned scene. Amusing then that it takes its name from a popular remix by French chartbusters Justice. Setting the film in the vacuous and sun drenched hills and valleys of LA doesn’t do much to alleviate the feeling that this is a scene that’s got no more substance to it than naysayers have suggested.
The story follows Cole’s journey to become a big time DJ, and his philosophy that an artist only needs a single ‘real’ song made with appropriate heart to get people dancing, and provide a platform to success. Zac Efron portrays Cole as appealingly handsome, talented and gregarious and it’s safe to say that his performance rescues what could have been an irredeemably obnoxious film. His friends are a mixed bag, ranging the spectrum from nervous closet-genius Squirrel to overbearing and awful walking priapism Mason. They band together to try and facilitate their dream of a life of sex, drugs, and middle of the road trance anthems by promoting a banal clubnight. Through this, Cole meets James (Wes Bentley) an older DJ coasting on former glories, and is introduced into a world of real music and real money.
Emily Ratajkowski provides the basis for much of the film's friction, playing the alluring Sophie, assistant to and lover of James. The chemistry between her and Cole is a saving grace primarily because it allows the film to revel in the shallow narcissism that it attempts to transcend elsewhere. They’re both attractive and charismatic young people that are easy to watch and accurately portray the kind of forbidden but transient lust that seems to be what the EDM scene is about at its core. The collision course between Cole and James is inevitable due to this forbidden romance and the faith that James puts in Cole, and Bentley is definitely capable as the dour and creatively insecure sellout.
Outside of Cole’s fantasy life, he and the gang make bank by working for a dubious company that buys the houses of people threatened with foreclosure, and then rents them back with the eventual aim of selling them off. When We Are Your Friends attempts this kind of moralising it comes across as gauche and tragic events in the film ring entirely hollow because they’re positioned as nothing more than stepping stones in Cole’s journey to super star DJ. Efron lends credence to him at least, but it’s still a wholly facile journey.
In some ways this is an incredibly honest film about the divisive EDM scene. There are admonishments made about the idea of only using synthetic sounds, the virtues of creating instead of imitation, and it wholly embraces the entirely shallow aesthetic, although it often feels flat and it is directed with strange mishmash of visual styles. Notably there are some artful and smartly composed static shots of the rare quiet of the Hollywood valleys, strange abstract instructionals about the theories of beat matching, and an inventive sequence where a PCP influenced Cole watches paintings take over people in a lurid and queasy dance sequence.
The entirely superficial nature of the film starts to grate though, and no matter how sun kissed and beautiful the locales and people look, the hollowness at the core starts to damage the integrity of the surface. By the end, even Cole’s success feels false, despite his final performance having at least a little emotional weight. For fans of the music, this film may hold some base appeal, but ultimately this is a case of pretty material being stretched over a structure of zero substance.Reviewed on: 26 Aug 2015