James Clay // Film Critic
Electronic Dance Music, or EDM for short, isn’t going anywhere, nor is the hedonistic lifestyle that tends to accompany the sub-culture. WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS covers this music movement that has affected the youth of the world with a carefree mantra that’s as simple as peace, love, and molly… lots of molly.
Star Zac Efron has clearly transcended into adult territory – most recently co-staring in last year’s NEIGHBORS and THAT AWKWARD MOMENT – that has challenged him as an actor and helped shred up those Mickey Mouse ears that made him a household name all those years ago.
While this is your run-of-the-mill coming-of-age story with narrative beats that are as standard as a base drop, director Max Joseph (the silver fella from TV’s CATFISH) employs a visual style that has beautiful people, doing beautiful things while listening to mediocre music.
Cole (Efron) just wants to be successful, while he’s spending his days and nights grinding out the monotony of living in the valley with his buds– hot tempered Mason (Jonny Weston), aspiring actor Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez), and the goofy yet wise Squirrel (Alex Shaffer). Yet, Cole has a dollar and a dream that extends past the San Fernando Valley and onto peering into every beating heart with his music. Although he admits all you need is “some talent,” he works relentlessly with the once great, now mid-level spinster James (Wes Bentley) to hone in his craft and make something that doesn’t sound like Skrillex and DeadMau5 had a baby.
Bentley has got some skeevy charisma as the bro-daddy musician who is incredibly refreshing to watch and play off of the Efron’s wet-behind-the-ears style of idealism. On the other hand, there are some missteps that come with the character of Sophia (Emily Ratajkowski), who is the girlfriend of James, which of course poses a problem when you put her in front of a piece of man candy such as Efron. Sophia is treated as nothing more than a trophy for these two guys to tug-o-war over. She’s provided a backstory of once attending the prestigious Stanford, but her brains are never titillated– only her curves, which is a shame because she indeed has talent.
It’s easy to see why this role would attract Efron to the subject matter: it’s breezy pace allows him to carry the story much like John Travolta did for SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. While the drunken benders, pill popping and rampant sex are a bit juvenile for older filmgoers, WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS has enough beats per minute to keep the party going.
WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS opens tonight in participating theaters, and everywhere tomorrow.