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Review: We Are Your Friends (2015)

We Are Your Friends (2015)

Directed by: Max Joseph

Premise: An EDM disc jockey (Zac Efron) attempting to make it in the Hollywood club scene gets connected with an established entertainer.

What Works: We Are Your Friends is a movie about the underside of the entertainment world and the picture is in many ways a subversive take on the American Dream. The film centers on an up-and-coming disc jockey and his friends as they live and work in the San Fernando Valley. The filmmakers use the geography of the setting to their advantage. As explained in the film, the Valley is adjacent to but separate from the area popularly known as Hollywood; the people in it live and work in the shadow of the wealth and glamour of the entertainment industry. The core cast of We Are Your Friends consists of a group of young men who are determined to make it but have no concrete ideas about what “making it” actually means. The movie is a portrait of young men adrift within sight of a vague dream but with no discernable pathway to it. We Are Your Friends is subversive in that it suggests that dreams of superstardom are often just that; one of the best moments in the film is a blowup among the friends when one of them finally recognizes that their dreams just aren’t happening and probably never will. In an effort to get something stable, the young men go to work for a real estate mogul but quickly come to discover that they are engaging in predatory business practices. The company lures homeowners in financial straits and then bilks their property out from under them. The business is lucrative but it is also unethical and this movie accomplishes in a few scenes what The Wolf of Wall Street took hours to convey. The aspiring DJ, played by Zac Efron, falls in with an established entertainer, played by Wes Bentley, who takes him on as an apprentice. He pushes Efron’s character to create an original and organic sound and the rediscovery of aural reality dovetails effectively into the character’s awakening from vague and simplistic dreams of success to the harsher and unglamorous realities of life.

What Doesn’t: We Are Your Friends is poised to be for 2015 what Shampoo and The Last Picture Show were for the 1970s. It has elements in it that are so good that the fact that the rest of We Are Your Friends doesn’t live up to its potential is frustrating. The picture is in tune with the youth culture of the moment and the movie demonstrates an awareness for both the hopes and the disappointments of life in the way a good coming-of-age story should. However, the plotting of We Are Your Friends is all over the place. The story involves the central characters in several specific settings: at home, employed at a real estate business, mixing music in the studio, and partying in the clubs. The action in each of these settings is isolated and the events in one location don’t seem to impact the characters anywhere else. For instance, the quartet of friends lease a house and throw a party but after a falling out everybody goes their separate ways and the house never appears in the movie again. When the group members take a job at a real estate company there are only a couple of scenes of them actually working and as the movie progresses it is unclear if they are still employed. Those kinds of inconsistencies riddle this movie and the filmmakers suffer a series of mistakes heading into the ending. We Are Your Friends concludes in a way that undermines the subversiveness that makes the earlier potions of this movie work. The momentum of the story is not headed toward a happy ending but the filmmakers slap one on anyway in which our protagonist gets exactly what he wanted out of life. This is disingenuous and out of step with the rest of the film.

Bottom Line: There is some great stuff in We Are Your Friends and the movie has enough in it that is commendable to merit a mild recommendation. But the film comes across as a missed opportunity to have been something really great.  

Episode: #558 (September 6, 2015)