Starring: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski
Young Cole (Efron) and his three friends have dreams of hitting the big time and defying the norm for the town they live in and actually making something of themselves, Cole himself dreams of becoming a DJ and putting together that illusive one dance track that will escalate him into the big time. After a chance meeting with superstar DJ James Reed (Bentley), Reed seeing the potential in Cole decides to take him under his wing. However as he starts to fall for his mentor’s girlfriend (Ratajowski) it potentially jeopardises both Coles’ friendships and his seemingly destined path to stardom.
Often the main factor in a film’s downfall is its tendency to take itself way too seriously, and the very stoic approach that We are Your Friends tells its story with often borders on deluded and therefore more than a little cringe-worthy. Coming-of-age tales can of course be generic and clichéd, and indeed the best ones normally are, but often director and co-writer Max Joseph thinks he is delivering some kind of life changing sermon that we should all take as invaluable advice on how to lead our own lives.
I for one am a huge fan of dance music and must admit that I do like some of the music in this film and can appreciate some of the (highly clichéd) preachy dialogue as the characters waffle on about what music can do. This of course can (and indeed does) apply to all kinds of music as people’s musical taste can be as subjective and varied as that of films. However the narrow and sermon-like approach of the film alienates particularly those that don’t like dance music, but also patronises and insults those that do.
Not only is the film’s deluded approach often infuriating, but every other element of the narrative is pure predictable cliché and contrivance with both the main plot and its somewhat pointless subplots that feel like they are included to just fill the time. These can be okay if done well, but the film is just so lazy in how these are presented that everything is signposted way before it happens.
The third and most crucial factor is however the film’s main characters; they are almost impossible to engage with and route for. Each one fits a type of caricature and though they have some relatable characteristics such as their loyalty to one another, their irrational and sometimes violent behaviour often makes them difficult to like as their actions go further than the simple youthful mistakes that we can all be guilty of.
This is all a bit of a waste as Zac Efron delivers the suitable levels of natural charisma and enthusiasm that is needed for his protagonist. Despite initially making the smart move of choosing some leftfield roles initially, Efron then turned up in some terrible ‘comedies’, but though his performance here definitely elevates the material and makes the film just about watchable, it ultimately ends up being wasted. Meanwhile Wes Bentley is there providing his usual lack of charisma and well, anything of note and Emily Ratajkowski’s character is just a one-dimensional and clichéd narrative tool.
As Efron’s Cole goes from one annoyingly predictable plot development to another, we are in no doubt what is going to happen and indeed how everything turns out in the end, but the laziness of how they are delivered and the preachy and patronising voice overs often make it very difficult to care.
A generic and clichéd coming-of-age tale that has severe illusions of grandeur; We Are Friends seems to have passion for its subject matter and Efron delivers a decent performance, but the film’s stoic decision to focus on preachy, patronising speeches and not avoid deep clichés renders it a forgettable and unengaging yarn.