Magazine article Screen International

'We Are Your Friends': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'We Are Your Friends': Review

Article excerpt

Dir: Max Joseph. US. 2015. 96mins

The tunes are fresh, but otherwise it's the same old song with We Are Your Friends, a coming-of-age drama set in the world of electronic dance music that captures some of the ecstatic rush of youth when the film's not busy laying out a sluggishly predictable romantic-triangle love story. Aspiring to be a kind of generational portrait, complete with sweeping generalisations and a lack of self-awareness, the feature debut of director Max Joseph can occasionally be as entrancing and euphoric as the pulsating dance songs on the soundtrack. But even an empathetic performance from Zac Efron (and an impressive, nuanced turn from Wes Bentley) can't distract from a movie that mistakes surface flash for probing, zeitgeist-y insights.

Hitting several territories, including France, the UK and the US, by August 28, We Are Your Friends will cater to fans of electronic dance music (or EDM) and Efron, and the film's perspective on twentysomething life could certainly appeal to those of the same age group. Still, it seems unlikely that word of mouth or reviews will be persuasive enough to draw viewers outside of those specific target audiences. Most may adopt a wait-and-see approach to We Are Your Friends, deciding to get acquainted with the film on the small screen once its theatrical run concludes.

Set in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, We Are Your Friends stars Efron as Cole, a 23-year-old who never went to college so that he could focus on his passion: becoming a DJ. Surrounded by friends who are burnouts and losers, he meets James (Bentley), a legendary DJ who's pushing 40 and may be a little past his prime. Even though Cole secretly thinks James has sold out, trading innovation for easy paydays, he's excited to be taken under the man's wing. But the mentorship gets complicated once Cole becomes smitten with James's girlfriend and personal assistant Sophie (an awkward but likeable and alluring Emily Ratajkowski).

A director of shorts and commercials, and one of the masterminds behind the MTV reality series Catfish, Joseph (who also co-wrote the script) self-consciously fashions We Are Your Friends to be a millennial state of the union, painting Cole and his peers as victims of a greedy, shallow society of which they want no part. Although Cole works with turntables, laptops and samplers, he's no different than the protagonists of bygone find-your-voice films in which a struggling songwriter or dancer learns that he must be true to himself so that he can really express what's inside of him.

This kind of cliché, like many others in We Are Your Friends, is delivered with a matter-of-factness that would be refreshing if it had much wit or ingenuity behind it. …

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