Directed and co-written by “Catfish” photographer Max Joseph (in his directorial debut), “We Are Your Friends” stars Zac Efron as an aspiring DJ in Los Angeles who is struggling to figure out his future. Emily Ratajkowski and Wes Bentley also star.
I guess I can give the movie props; it is better than it could/should have been. A rookie director/screenwriter paired with Zac Efron and a model in the leading roles, in a movie about DJs being released in late August. All signs pointed to this being one of those movies that were doomed from the start. But the film isn’t a disaster; it’s actually kinda mehhhh, ahhhh, fine(?)
I like Zac Efron, I think he is a capable-enough actor, and like Channing Tatum once he finds his niche he will have a nice career. Here he plays Cole, a 23-year-old wannabe DJ who lives in Los Angeles, has a job that pays him a $15,000 bonus, and constantly has attractive girls hitting on him at clubs, but he still manages to find things to complain about in his life. He meets a famous DJ (oxymoron?), played by Wes Bentley, who takes Cole under his wing.
Efron and Bentley have solid chemistry in their Obi-Wan/Luke Skywalker relationship, even if almost every scene plays out the same way: Bentley tells Efron that he needs to find a style, Efron does something different and Bentley likes it, but the film needs to keep going so he tells Efron to change more.
The film has a nice energy about it and the Los Angeles skyline adds some visual candy, but unfortunately the energy is bogged down by incoherent direction and a script that is just all over the place. I don’t think you know how hard it was just for me just to come up with that plot summary in the opening paragraph, because aside from the overarching story of Efron wanting to be a DJ, there are so many other side plots you just don’t care about.
Efron has this group of three friends who are pretty much the Dollar General version of the “Entourage” crew and you just hate all of them. They get into fights and hold Efron back, so when suddenly a life-changing event happens to them simply for the sake of attempting to add dramatic heft to the plot, you don’t care. Then the movie just kind of breezes over the event by the next scene and you didn’t care in the first place so you just shrug it off.
The direction needs to be addressed, too, because it feels like a different person was in charge of the first and second half of the film. The first half has characters break the third wall for reasons never explained, some weird cutaways to stock footage of maps and lions, and then borderline creepy x-rays of dancing people’s beating hearts. It all concludes with a scene where Efron takes drugs and imagining people becoming moving paintings.
The second half has none of this and plays out like a poor man’s coming-of-age story that happens to unfortunately (for him, mostly) involve Jon Bernthal (he deserves so much better).
The bottom line about “We Are Your Friends” is this: as much as I didn’t care about 90% of what was happening, and I hated most every character not played by Efron or Bentley, I still was relatively enjoying myself throughout. The film does tend to take itself too seriously (a satire on the world of DJs may have worked better) and the title is annoying and irrelevant to the plot, but if movies about attractive DJs struggling to get rich is your thing, then it has enough style and energy to be worth a mild recommendation.