Zac Efron. Wild parties. Drug use. Loud music. Is it 'Bad Neighbours 2'? Despite the similarities, 'We Are Your Friends' is a far cry from the frat house comedy.
Here, Efron plays aspiring DJ Cole Carter. He could have been a track superstar, but his love of music sees him spending his days creating new electronic tracks and his nights showcasing them at a club in the San Fernando Valley. By his side are his childhood friends Mason (Jonny Weston, 'Insurgent'), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez, 'Jericho', 'Evil Dead') and Squirrel (newcomer Alex Shaffer). Out like any other Thursday night, Cole meets burnt-out hit DJ James Reed (Wes Bentley, 'American Horror Story', 'Interstellar') and their friendship both inspires and elevates him - but does Cole have what it takes to make it to the world stage?
First and foremost, this isn't a bad film. Far from it. It's just a little... lacklustre. I spent the entire time feeling as though I was walking through a dream rather than being in the middle of a club or music festival. Perhaps this is the end result of a relatively low-budget film, but the audience is clearly an observer, not a participant. Still, my biggest qualm is the film tapping in to the current generation's get-rich-quick mindset. That success is deserved rather than earned. That you only need one hit to make it big. Greed is a theme this film toys with, sometimes blatantly, sometimes more subtly, but both instances deliver a stock-standard Hollywood resolution.
The element that, in my mind, worked best in this film is the titular reference - the interaction between the four friends. We don't know how they fell together, but these mismatched individuals are a close-knit group trying to build a better life for themselves. It's never clear why Cole and Mason are living together (though alluded to), but these two bounce off each other brilliantly, with Weston unafraid of being overshadowed by Efron. Yet Shaffer offers the most heartfelt scenes in this story - one simple piece of dialog from Squirrel defines what this film is, and his quiet scenes with Cole are some of the film's strongest.
Greed is a theme this film toys with, sometimes blatantly, sometimes more subtly, but both instances deliver a stock-standard Hollywood resolution.
Zac Efron is a little wasted in this film - yes, say what you will, but I actually happen to believe he has some true talent as an actor. He plays things light and breezy, and does so well, but he easily could have had a little more meat to sink his teeth into. Meanwhile, Emily Ratajkowski ('Gone Girl', 'Entourage') as Reed's assistant/girlfriend proves she has the whole package; her presence on screen is equally matched by her acting ability.
This is director Max Joseph's feature film directorial debut, and his roots from MTV's 'Catfish' are evident - this is a very raw, handheld, up-close-and-personal style of filmmaking. This film also would have been a flop from the get-go if the music wasn't a winner, but music supervisor Randall Poster along with artists Pyramid and Segal have pulled together tracks - both new and old - to make it sound just right.
It's not so much that I didn't enjoy or found major flaws in 'We Are Your Friends'. It's simply that I could feel the potential for something greater - more life-affirming, more inspiring, more revelatory. Like waking from a dream, you're left with wisps of what could have been. If electronic music - or Zac Efron - is your thing, you're bound to revel in this film. If not, it's still not a bad way to spend 90 minutes... Just don't forget to bring along your friends.