So, this morning, I read some of the harsh reviews that mainstream critics have given the new film We Are Your Friends and I have to admit that I’m starting to get a little ticked off.
That’s not to say that We Are Your Friends is a very good movie. I saw it last night with my BFF Evelyn and we enjoyed it but mostly, that was because we talked through almost the entire movie. And yes, I know that it’s rude to talk through a movie but seriously, the theater was nearly deserted. When we bought our tickets, there was a huge crowd of people gathered outside the theater but it turns out that they were all buying tickets for War Room.
Anyway, We Are Your Friends tells the story of Cole (Zac Efron), a DJ who lives with three idiot friends (who are so identical to the group from Entourage that one of them is even named Squirrel). He spends his days working at a mortgage company and his nights DJing. Then he meets James (Wes Bentley), a formerly great DJ who is on his way down. James takes Cole under his wing and mentors him and teaches him how to get a room dancing. But, Cole ends up falling in love with James’s abused girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), which leads to… well, it leads to exactly what you think it’s going to lead to. Storywise, We Are Your Friends is not going to win any points for originality.
While we were watching the movie, Evelyn and I agreed that Zac Efron is a strange actor. I mean, yes, he’s hot and yes, he’s talented enough that he can walk while delivering his lines but, at the same time, his dramatic performances always feel oddly empty. You watch him and you get the feeling that he’s still trying way too hard to prove that there’s more to him than just High School Musical. He’s like the guy who you have crush on until you actually get to know him and discover that, beyond his looks, he’s really not that interesting. Efron always seems to be putting in a lot of effort but, whenever you watch one of his performances, you get the feeling that there’s not much going on underneath the beautiful surface. For all intents and purposes, Zac Efron is the anti-Gosling.
And some movies have made good use of Efron’s limits. He was perfectly cast in Me and Orson Welles, for instance. And he’s good in comedies, where he can play against his good looks. But in a film like We Are Your Friends, where you’re actually supposed to have some sort of emotional stake in his hopes and dreams, Efron just feels miscast.
That said, I still enjoyed We Are Your Friends and I think that a lot of the reviews have been a bit too harsh. Why did I enjoy the movie? It all comes down to the music and the dancing. If you love EDM, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in We Are Your Friends. And if you’re not into EDM — well, then fuck off. I could sit here and write another 500 words about how clichéd the storyline is but, ultimately, that’s not what the film is about. The film is about the music. The film is about the ecstasy of dancing all night and then waking up with the beats still playing in your head. At its best, that’s what this film captures. It’s not a great film. A month from now, I have a feeling that it’ll be a struggle to remember much about We Are Your Friends. But I’ll probably still be listening to the soundtrack.
That’s what a lot of the harsh reviews are missing but then again, most mainstream film reviews are written by people who are too old to appreciate EDM in the first place. EDM is music for people who are young and who are still capable of enjoying the present and dreaming about the future. Boring old mainstream critics will never get it and that’s why the reviews of We Are Your Friends feel so condescending. The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reads: “We Are Your Friends boasts magnetic stars and glimmers of insight, but they’re lost in a clichéd coming-of-age story as programmed as the soundtrack’s beats.” Now I know how those Christians who went to see War Room feel whenever a reviewer thinks he’s being clever when he says that one of their films “doesn’t have a prayer.” It’s all so condescending and cutesy.
Listen, We Are Your Friends is not a particularly good film. But it’s not as bad as you might think. The plot is bad but the music is good and really, isn’t that the point?