This tale about a wannabe DJ living in Los Angeles is a Zac Efron vehicle, and as you’d expect it’s a film that tries to capitalise on the doe-eyed-former-Disney-kid good looks of its star, though putting my snobbery aside for a minute I guess there’s nothing really wrong with that. His character’s nascent career is variously helped along and hindered by three thinly-drawn bros and a famous and successful DJ mentor, played by Wes Bentley, before problems begin to stack up and he gets involved with a girl he shouldn’t get involved with and life lessons must be learned and hey, he’s a good guy so let’s hope it all works out for him and blah blah fuckity blah. It’s a hyperactive, busy film that eventually forgoes all of its early, quirky touches (unimaginatively-rotoscoped drug sequences, on-screen captions, etc) for straightforward, clichéd plotting and the neat tying up of various loose ends, hitting all the usual notes of the man-rises-and-stutters-and-rises-again movie along the way. Throughout there’s a backdrop of depressingly glitzy, soulless nightclubs and pool parties, all of which are populated by (supposedly) perfect-looking extras who were presumably bussed over en masse from the Entourage movie. (Really, is LA even remotely like this? It looks awful.) The scenes that feature many of these actors dancing sum up the falseness of We Are Your Friends, which exhibits little genuine feeling for electronic music itself, or the passion of those who create it, listen to it or dance to it in real life. In fact the screenplay ends up making the tired old argument – long perpetuated by Luddite rock fans – that sounds coming from a machine are somehow inauthentic and a poor substitute for music that’s played on Proper Instruments, to which I thumb my nose and say ‘meh’ through a cheap vocoder. (Throughout all of the scenes in which Efron’s character makes music he looks like someone who absolutely hates everything about it, too, although having heard some of it during the film I can’t really say I blame him.) The entirely predictable ending is one low point, while another is the film’s 99 Homes-style foreclosures subplot, which features a truly dismal turn by Jon Bernthal as a baseball bat-wielding salesman. This film’s a turd, I’m sorry to report, although plenty of effort has gone into polishing it.
Directed by: Max Joseph.
Written by: Max Joseph, Meaghan Oppenheimer.
Starring: Zac Efron, Emily Ratajkowski, Wes Bentley, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, Jonny Weston, Jon Bernthal.
Cinematography: Brett Pawlak.
Editing: Terel Gibson, David Dilberto.
Running Time: 94 minutes.