Review: We Are Your Friends Made Me Feel Old
Title: We Are Your Friends
Director: Max Joseph
Screenwriter: Max Joseph (screenplay), Meaghan Oppenheimer (screenplay), and Richard Silverman
Principal Cast: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Johnny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, and Jon Bernthal
Summary: Caught between a forbidden romance and the expectations of his friends, aspiring DJ Cole Carter attempts to find the path in life that leads to fame and fortune.
Full disclosure: I am not into the party scene. Even when I was in college most of the parties I attended tended to devolve into drunkenly watching Mythbusters while drinking absolutely terrible gin. I have absolutely no rhythm when it comes to dancing and I’ve never really gotten the appeal of electronic music. To say that I went into We Are Your Friends as a bit of an outsider would be an understatement. The longest I’ve spent in a club was maybe an hour before I got bored and left. I’ve gone into plenty of movies as an outsider, though, and walked away entertained.
We Are Your Friends feels under developed in its character and left me feeling much older than I actually am at the end.
As I said I’m not a fan of the DJ or club scene, but there wasn’t a moment during We Are Your Friends that sold me on the lifestyle. In some ways it almost felt like it was made by DJ’s who are trying to justify their own existence while, at the same time, it also reminds us that pretty much anyone can DJ. It makes the overall tone of the movie feel very murky and it just gets even more lost in a coming of age story that we’ve all seen done better elsewhere. In this case it also comes down to young kids being extremely stupid.
The closest we have to an antagonist is James (Wes Bentley) as an older DJ who is a drunk and, we’re informed by Cole (Zac Efron), that has sold out. He tells Cole that “you’re not even a person until you’re twenty seven” and I wanted to shout “yes, listen to him” which I’m not sure is what the movie wanted me to do. There is also the way that Cole just shoots himself in the foot when it comes to his professional relationship with James that irritated me to no end. If you’ve seen one coming of age movie and you notice the presence of Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski) then you know what I’m talking about.
There are times for broad strokes characters and that’s when a story is going for metaphor over story, but We Are Your Friends has nothing but underdeveloped characters and doesn’t have any meaning. By the end of the movie there isn’t much that has been resolved and almost no one has really learned anything. Cole hasn’t been punished for making his mistake earlier in the plot and no one else seems to have really evolved any way that is really meaningful. Cole has three friends that could have easily been brought down to one, and maybe that would have been an entire character, but with three people that are given almost no screentime they all don’t amount to much. They are too cardboard thin for a movie that isn’t going for metaphor.
If there is one thing I did like it was that the direction by Max Joseph was interesting. He frames what could have been boring scenes in very interesting ways. Probably the best moment in the movie is when Cole is explaining how to work a crowd and Joseph puts up visual aids and on screen text. It’s a fun sequence, most of those sequences are interesting from an artist point of view, but the coming of age story takes up so much of the plot that it gets lost.
We Are Your Friends is a movie that does very little to justify its own existence and even less to justify the lifestyle it is portraying. After an hour and a half all I learned is what the movie taught me at the beginning; anyone can be a DJ and that doesn’t make for a good movie.