Film Review: We Are Your Friends (★½)


we_are_your_friends_ver2While I loved Magic Mike and actually enjoyed Entourage a decent amount, if you took the very worst elements from both of those films, mixed in as many movie cliches as possible, and set it to a ton of EDM (Electronic Dance Music), that’s basically what you get with We Are Your Friends. If you’re a fan of the music, that might make this more bearable, but I’m indifferent to the sound and found it one of the least annoying parts of this garbage. Zac Efron gets a slightly more mature role than usual, but I use the word mature loosely, as much of the part consists of him doing incredibly immature things. Filmmaker Max Joseph seems to think that audiences will enjoy a bunch of 20 somethings slacking, dealing drugs, and generally behaving badly while constantly claiming they’re about to grow up. Done in a more interesting way, that could be compelling, but it’s presented so much like an MTV music video that you just feel gross watching it all go down. Between that and a super generic artist trying to make it in a corporate world coming of age story, which we’ve seen so many times before, and that’s not much to offer here. We Are Your Friends is among the ten worst things I’ve seen all year, with very little going for it of any note. This is a complete waste of time, plain and simple. To excuse the pun, with friends like these…

The plot for this film is your basic look at a musician of sorts who wants more out of their life, so yes…a musically tinged coming of age story. Cole (Efron) is an aspiring DJ who mostly spends time with his three slacker friends, with occasional spinning thrown in. Mason (Jonny Weston) just wants to party and promote at a club that Cole sometimes can DJ at, Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) deals drugs while half heartedly pursuing an acting career, and Squirrel (Alex Shaffer) drives everyone around, though he seems to periodically dream of something more. One night at the club, Cole plays before famous DJ James Reed (Wes Bentley) goes on, remarking to a pretty girl in the crowd named Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski) that James used to be good before he became famous and sold out. Lo and behold, a chance encounter in an alley brings Cole into James’ world and they party together. James sees Cole as a protege of sorts, as well as a friend, a feeling that Cole shares. The thing is, he also has the hots for Sophie, who happens to be James’ assistant and live in girlfriend. That forbidden fruit tempts him, as does a life beyond the one he shares with his friends. It’s all pretty rote and predictable, which is a shame. Given more of the serious Magic Mike treatment, something like this could have worked, instead of being as easy to telegraph as this winds up being.

electronic-music-is-at-the-core-of-zac-efron-emily-ratajkowskis-new-film-we-are-your-friends-001It’s not necessarily the fault of the actors, but every single character in this movie is a terrible and unlikeable person. It’s probably no surprise then that Wes Bentley and Zac Efron fare the best in the cast because they’re required to acknowledge this. Efron is a bland leading man, but he has sporadic charisma, so a better written part would have done wonders for him. Bentley has the closest thing to a complex character to play, so he’s the one who winds up leaving this mostly unscathed. It’s not a demanding part, but he does put a bit of a dark spin on it. Emily Ratajkowski is mostly here because she’s attractive, something the filmmakers don’t try to hide, as on more than one occasion the camera leers at her, but more on that in a bit. Ratajkowski isn’t a bad actress, but she has limited range, so at times her performance is shot in the foot. Jon Bernthal pops up as a sketchy boss for the friends, essentially riffing on his role in The Wolf of Wall Street, but he sleepwalks through it. The trio of Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, and Jonny Weston actively annoyed me, with Weston in particular being like nails on a chalkboard. The cast also includes Jon Abrahams, Alicia Coppola, and Molly Hagan, among others, but an actor’s showcase, this is not.

Director/co-writer Max Joseph makes his feature debut here and it’s not a promising one. The script he co-wrote with Meaghan Oppenheimer and Richard Silverman is lacking in any depth, while his filmmaking is often sophomoric and has the attention span of a mosquito. It’s ironic that a film about music that’s created in a computer using derivative sounds is as cliched and pre-programmed as We Are Your Friends is, but then again, I suppose it’s par for the course. Particularly icky is how Joseph has his camera often stare at Ratajkowski’s breasts for extended periods of time. It’s a nice view, but it just objectifies her in a way that’s downright uncomfortable.

Overall, aside from the music, I don’t know what We Are Your Friends can offer anyone. It’s cliched, childish, and lacking in any insight about music, friendship, or love. This flick is like the worst of what MTV used to offer up as original programming. Without question, it’s one of the poorest pieces of cinema so far in 2015. I suspect it’ll make my year end Bottom Ten list, if it’s not completely forgotten about by then. Do yourself a favor and ignore We Are Your Friends. To close with another pun…friends don’t let friends see crap like this.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!