We Are Your Friends (2015)
Directed by Max Joseph
If “Project X” had an alcohol-fueled late-night hook-up with “The Wolf of Wall Street,” their baby might look something like “We Are Your Friends.” Caught between genuinely good and downright disgraceful, this 96-minute buzzing EDM track is like a turd covered in glitter. It’s hot and stylish and glitzy and devoid of almost any real substance. Its cast is gorgeous and silly and energetic and largely without talent. You love it until you think about it for more than a few seconds. But first-time writer-director Max Joseph (co-host of MTV’s “Catfish”) had something worthwhile in his head, and “We Are Your Friends” does have an undeniably refreshing attitude. Unfortunately, even the best hype man can’t distract you from a shitty record. And that’s pretty much what “We Are Your Friends” is.
Seemingly stuck in San Fernando Valley, friends Cole (Zac Efron), Mason (Jonny Weston), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez), and Squirrel (Alex Shaffer) spend their Thursday nights promoting shows for free drinks and spend most of their mornings nursing hangovers. Cole DJs for small crowds, but he doesn’t catch a break until he shares a smoke with veteran DJ James Reed (Wes Bentley), and the doors begin to open. But in the meantime, the friends snag a job in shady real estate from their mentor, Paige (Jon Bernthal). As Cole starts getting bigger gigs, and starts falling for Reed’s girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), his friends don’t see their lives progressing at the same pace. Cole will have to weigh his own priorities. As he slowly makes his way out of the valley, who will he bring up with him?
I have little appreciation for DJs or EDM or house music, as a rule. It all just gives me a pounding migraine. “We Are Your Friends” did little to change that. But it does have endearing qualities. It’s likable, on the surface. It has a trippy 80s so-bad-its-good comedy vibe. Efron fits the part, even if he doesn’t give it his best effort. Ratajkowski doesn’t have much life in her, but the model certainly leaves an impression. Bentley may have been the cast’s only real bright spot. His character is flimsy and one-dimensional, but he makes you forget about bad writing when he’s on-screen. His charisma personifies the movie in general—fun to watch until you look a little deeper. “We Are Your Friends” tries at a couple moments to get deep, fast. Those diversions are poorly thought out. All of the parts of a decent movie lie somewhere within “We Are Your Friends,” but nobody put in the effort to assemble them properly. The screenplay, for instance (from first-timer David Silverman) bounces around without sticking to a single theme. It tries, to be fair, by blurting out poignant life lessons like “Are we ever going to be better than this?” But it never decides which path to pursue, instead choosing to pursue all of them. The biggest problem, then, with “We Are Your Friends” is tone. It’s something so general, so big, and so hard to fix. But it’s also hard to define. The cast is alright, the script is alright, the music is alright. But the way it all fits together is not alright. It seems insincere. As hard as it tries to be more than a party flick, “We Are Your Friends” never finds its rhythm.