There was a time that we all thought Zac Efron wouldn’t escape his Disney fame, only to stay the “High School Musical” heartthrob until slowly dying out into irrelevance, but here we are. Thanks to the faith of a few talented filmmakers though, Efron has been able to break into the mainstream film circuit, all while retaining his heartthrob status. This all comes full circle in “We Are Your Friends,” Efron’s first starring role in a dramatic film (cheesy romance movies don’t count), and it seemed understandable enough. Playing off of the popularity of electronic music today, as well as Efron’s notoriety and the prestige of being produced by Working Title Films, the minds behind some Oscar winners like “The Theory of Everything,” “Les Misérables” and “Atonement.” “We Are Your Friends” seemed to be a step out of the comfort zone of everyone involved, and I like that.
Beyond that though, there isn’t much to like about “We Are Your Friends.”
Off the bat, we learn that the characters in the film are morally reprehensible human beings, playing off the weakness of others and taking advantage of whatever and whoever they need to to achieve their own selfish goals. The only exception to this rule in the film comes from the character of Squirrel, played by Alex Shaffer. Squirrel is the only main character with any sort of believably or good intentions abound, which all seems even worse when his character is wasted to focus on the annoyingly terrible ones.
While the characters are repulsive human beings, I can’t say the actors behind the characters do any sort of bad job, but merely an average one. Efron is fine in the role of Cole, an aspiring DJ hoping to get out of the San Fernando Valley with his douchebag friends to make it big. Yet, I feel as if any actor could’ve filled the shoes of Efron, and it simply doesn’t across as memorable in any way, shape or form. A good performance in the film comes from the likable Emily Ratajkowski, filling the shoes of a slightly less terrible, yet still bad person, as Chloe, Cole’s love interest. Ratajkowski has come a long way since being the “Blurred Lines” girl, and I’m hopeful that her career will do better than this film following its release. Shaffer as Squirrel is also a good performance, really trying to play up the likability of his character in the few scenes he was given to actually work with it, which is worth something on its own, and worthy of something better for Shaffer.
For a while, I found “We Are Your Friends” to be at least be aesthetically pleasing, and that holds up whilst writing this review, though I found the “unique” elements of the film to come across as somewhat self-congratulatory, as if it was patting itself on the back before the camera even turned on. Yes, “We Are Your Friends” takes place in a pretty location, with pretty people, and a booming soundtrack, but I couldn’t help but think about how much more amazing the director, Max Joseph, must think it looks. Perhaps I’m wrong, as I know things in Hollywood don’t always favor the director’s best judgment, but again, I could also be right. It’s just that type of movie.
As for the soundtrack, it’s also fine, but I’m not necessarily qualified to really speak on this, as I’m not a big fan of electronic dance music music (EDM). I’m sure this film will be audible porn for you if this is the type of music you listen to, especially booming through theater speakers, but at the same time, you could also save $10, stay home, and listen to EDM music on Spotify, while avoiding a bad movie and keeping more money in your pocket.
There was a point at the end of “We Are Your Friends” where I thought it was going to do something clever, but my expectations were turned on their head with more contrived elements that cemented my feelings on the film. I’m not going to bash the cast or crew, as everyone can have a misstep, and they’re not the real ones at fault. I wish that for five minutes, the characters in the film were real, so I could blame it on them, but alas it has to lie somewhere else, or perhaps nowhere else. But I know one thing’s for sure, when a film doesn’t engage me, even in the “emotional” scenes, and when the actors can’t pull any bit of likability out of their characters in the thin story and muddled message they have, despite their best efforts, it’s a problem, regardless of if anyone can be blamed.
Directed by: Max Joseph
Starring: Zac Efron, Emily Ratajkowski, Jonny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer and Wes Bentley.
Runtime: 96 minutes
Rating: R for language throughout, drug use, sexual content and some nudity.
StudioCanal and Warner Bros. Pictures present, a Working Title production, “We Are Your Friends”