I’m going to be honest straight off the bat, I didn’t expect much from the new Zac Efron flick, We Are Your Friends. In fact, I just expected to watch a guy plug his mp3 into a stereo, take drugs, and call himself a DJ. But let me also, straight off the bat, say I was wrong.
Zac Efron plays Cole Carter, a twenty-three year old DJ who dreams of becoming world-famous. He spends his days and nights with his friends, promoting his performances, and working on the “one track” that he believes will launch him into stardom. Throughout the film, Cole finds himself torn between his ambition and possible romance, and his loyalty to his friends. Granted, many of the “plot twists” come from a mile away, but there’s something truly spectacular in the way that they are arranged that make them feel fresh. I feel as though Max Joseph (director) was striving to make this a statement of millennial circumstance, and while I don’t think it is necessarily the most profound film I’ve seen for this generation, I do see it becoming a bit of a coming-of-age cult classic for the modern times.
One thing I loved about this movie is that it didn’t center around a boy (Efron) meets girl (Emily Ratajkowski as the wonderfully flawed Sophie) plot line. It didn’t center around Cole’s relationship with his friends, Squirrel (Alex Shaffer), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez), and Mason (Johnny Weston), either. Rather, the film focuses on Cole’s relationship with his friend and mentor James Reed (Wes Bentley).
The film features characters that aren’t quite what was expected going in. Not only that, but it will bring a new appreciation to the work behind being a DJ. As someone who works with musicians on a daily basis, I am ashamed to say I was actually perplexed as to why people pay so much money to see a person play on a computer attached to amplifiers, as opposed to just going and seeing an actual band. We Are Your Friends showed that for the DJs that reach out beyond the laptop, there’s a lot of work that goes in to crafting a great electronic song. I found myself fascinated at the process that the film showcased.
However, the film is very American in the sense that it focuses on getting that “one song” and that being the means to reaching your goals; the doorway to your dreams, if you will. That’s not to say Cole doesn’t hit some roadblocks, but it is really a epiphany-ensuing film of finding glory after struggle.
Efron actually plays an interesting role, and something that showed him not just as this overly-cliched heartthrob romantic lead, but as a human being with his own strengths and weaknesses. In short, he played an actual human, as opposed to a caricature of a frat boy, a singing basketball player, etc.
Bentley plays the character that you aren’t sure if you love or hate; he’s a successful, jaded DJ dependent on drugs and alcohol, with a mean streak that goes against more than hashtags. But he also has some of the most poignant lines in the film, such as, “You haven’t been alive long enough to know the meaning of the word irreparable. But at some point in your life there’ll be things that will finish you! And there won’t be a damn thing you can do about it!”
There’s a spectacular power to the relationship between Cole and James that leaves me feeling impressed at Max Joseph’s first attempt at directing a film. For the cinema nerds like me, can I please just take a moment to praise the cinematography of this film? There a some stunning shots throughout the movie, which beautifully frame the film’s showcase of the millennial struggles.
Unfortunately, this is the generation where it feels as though there is little innovation left, and if there is, it’s a rat race to get the idea out their first. College is no longer the avenue to success. And financial stability no longer means success or happiness, as we see when Cole and his friends land a job doing cold calls for the heartless Paige.
All in all, We Are Your Friends is a fresh presence in a world of car-chases, unlikely romances, and “of course there’s a happy ending!” films that we are surrounded by.
Check out the trailer below: