By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
The appropriately titled We Are Your Friends is a somewhat relatable coming of age film that has a lot of heart, but sometimes clumsily delivers its messages. I may not be a millenial, whose generation seems to be the target demographic of this movie, but I still could relate to the character dynamics, some of the scenarios, and the goals and desires of the characters. In reality, some things never change. Most people have had friends or family who are screw-ups, dreamers, troublemakers, or those simply on the wrong path in life. I mean; we’re all human after all. This movie, despite the generation of its characters, does have relevance for all generations, because most people experience the trials and tribulations faced by them. The themes and beats may be very familiar and not exactly original, but then again, some types of stories will always be relevant no matter how times they are told.
Zac Effron stars as Cole Carter, a low rent electronic dance music DJ who struggles to make ends meet by hustling gigs and performing odd jobs with his friends Mason (Jonny Weston), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez), and Squirrel (Alex Shaffer). Cole dreams of become a major musical talent, producing successful records; however, he has yet to have created something that will get him the exposure he badly needs. After working a low paying club gig, Cole gets the attention of James (Wes Bentley), an older EDM DJ superstar, who takes Cole under his wing and begins to mentor him.
Under the tutelage of James, Cole begins work on some exciting new music and has real opportunities to start a successful career. As he becomes more involved with James and becomes a regular fixture in his home and social scene, Cole begins to turn his back on buddies who wander aimlessly, working dead-end jobs, and pursuing careers that require flexible ethics. At the same time, James also realizes that as wealthy and successful as James is, he really is a sad and washed up artist whose best days are probably behind him.
Written and directed by Max Joseph who co-wrote the screenplay with Meaghan Oppenheimer adapted from a story by Richard Silverman, We Are Your Friends is a charming, often funny, and sometimes heartfelt movie that should please audiences. The plot and characters are familiar, but not in a way that is completely dull and uninspired. The movie is a morality tale that has its heavy handed moments when it comes to developing those morals, but the journey there is mostly enjoyable. Joseph and crew prove to be technically proficient when it comes to composing and cutting impeccable music sequences which impressed me most out of everything done in the film.
Though the handling of the story’s morals can be a little sloppy, and some of the subplots resolve rather easily, there’s no denying the love that permeates the story and characters. The writing is at its sharpest when it juggles between celebrating the wild recklessness of youth and the amusingly witty critique of the millenial generation, mostly delivered through Wes Bentley’s character James. Though his character does come across as a self-righteous bellyacher at moments, his bitingly critical remarks are spot on.
It is great to see Bentley star in a movie that utilizes his talent well. I definitely loved his work in this movie. Effron, who first impressed me with his performance in Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles, has had an interesting, but not always consist mix of work since then. Here in We Are Your Friends, Effron uses his natural charisma well and proves himself capable of mature leading roles. Overall, I enjoyed the cast which also includes solid work by Jonny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, and Jon Bernthal. The gorgeous Emily Ratajowski performs adequately, but her character seems to mainly serve as eye candy. She too has a natural charm to her personality in addition to her physical assets, but her character’s development in the story lacks the proper dimension to really stand out.
Though this movie does have more depth than I was expecting, it too lacks some elements that will help make it stand out from others like it. Still, it is a movie that has relevance for not only its generation, but others as well. It is not a film that demands to be seen theatrically; however, should one decide to spend some money on matinee tickets, there are definitely worse movies on which to waste money.