by Adam Riske
We Are Your Friends tells the story of an up-and-coming young DJ named Cole Carter (Zac Efron) who dreams of making it big. But first he has to get his head out of his laptop and stop imitating all of the other laptop DJs and begin using real-world sounds in order to create that signature track that will put him on the map. Sounds like a ridiculous premise for a movie, right? Well it is. And it isn’t. I say it isn’t because the movie takes its premise deadly seriously and as a result, I did as an audience member, too. It was wise of the filmmakers to make We Are Your Friends a smart character study as it lends the story the credibility it desperately needed. It plays no sillier than something like Saturday Night Fever, Hustle & Flow or 8 Mile. This movie is basically how Skrillex or Calvin Harris became Skrillex or Calvin Harris. I don’t know. I was on board for that. You might not be.
However, the difference between a great movie (like Saturday Night Fever) and a good movie (like We Are Your Friends) has to do in part with its lead performance, since the entire movie hinges on that main character’s journey. Zac Efron is not John Travolta. While I think Efron is a likeable actor, he’s sort of a blank slate and that keeps We Are Your Friends at arm’s length emotionally. Travolta in Saturday Night Fever was much more raw and vivacious, which made that lead performance one for the ages. We Are Your Friends desperately needs that and it doesn’t have it from Efron. As a result, the movie stands as a respectable drama but not one of the greats.
Magic Mike. They both are about the party (stripping, playing music etc.) but more so about the lifestyle and economic situations of its characters. Think of We Are Your Friends as the little brother of Magic Mike and you might like it.
The End of the Tour, The Gift, Straight Outta Compton, People Places Things, Turbo Kid) and I’d put We Are Your Friends in that grouping as well. Actually this is the perfect bridge movie between the party-time movies of the summer and the more somber dramas of the fall. Based on its box office performance, We Are Your Friends will probably be out of theaters pretty soon. I recommend you catch it. It exceeded my expectations going in and is about to be overlooked. It’s not great, but director Max Joseph (who does a solid job of effectively handling the tone and employing just enough flash while also respecting the audience’s intelligence) has given us a good and entertaining drama, with great music, and that’s reason enough to give it a spin.