A Quickie With Lisa Marie: We Are Your Friends (dir by Max Joseph)


We_Are_Your_Friends

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?

Quick Review: Gone Girl (dir. by David Fincher)


gone-girl-posterI stumbled onto the novel for Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl in a mall. It sat near the front of the store with the rest of her books, emblazoned with one of those “soon to be a major motion picture” stickers and a “#1 New York Times Bestseller” label on top. I figured I try it, unaware that David Fincher was involved on the project. During that read, I ran to the Barnes & Noble in Union Square to pick up Flynn’s other books, Sharp Objects and Dark Places. After a co-worker and I finished these (I haven’t read Sharp Objects yet), we agreed that we enjoyed them, overall.

Of Gone Girl the Motion Picture, Flynn herself handles the screenwriting duties and she presents an adaptation so close to her novel that I wouldn’t be shocked if the film receives the same response as the first Harry Potter film. I only spotted 2 distinct changes, and these don’t damage the film in any way. They just may make you say..”Oh, crap, she didn’t keep that.”, If anything.

“But Lenny..” You might say, after hearing me tell you this over pizza and soda. “You’re losing me again, you’re talking too much. I never read Gone Girl. I could care less about the book, I just want to know about the movie because tickets are expensive, dammit! Wrap it up. Is it worth seeing or not?”

In a word, yes. Flynn’s story and Fincher’s direction are like Wine and Cheese here. Flynn’s machine gun writing and Fincher’s pacing method could make them as hot a duo as True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Joji Fukunaga. If actress / producer Reese Witherspoon was involved in getting these two together, she may have another gem under her belt to put next to her film Penelope.

Gone Girl is the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, a happily married Missouri couple on the verge of their 5th Anniversary. When Nick suddenly discovers his wife is missing, the investigation into her disappearance seems to lead back to him, presenting the question of whether our hero may or may not be involved. Just as with the novel, the audience is given glimpses into Amy’s story through flashbacks of their life together. The movie dances from chapter to chapter (or scene to scene, I should say) in this fashion and does so pretty well. You’ve a love story wrapped in a mystery.

The casting is spot on. There’s not a single person in this film that seemed like they didn’t fit their part. Both Ben Affleck (Argo) and Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher, The World’s End) are magnetic when theyre not dealing with each other and if the movie manages to stumble into Awards season, their names could get thrown into the hat.

The supporting cast in Gone Girl is somewhat strong. Carrie Coon does a fine job as Nick’s sister Margo, which was definitely a good choice. It’s Kim Dickens (Hollow Man, Treme), Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry who have the best screen time of any one outside of the leads. Every one of them help to pick up the story when you think it might waver a bit.

“Great!” you may say, getting up to leave. “I’ll check it out. Thanks for letting me know.”, To which I’d ask..”Don’t you want to know about the direction? Cinematography?” You might sit back down, sigh and roll your eyes, as if to say…”Sure, not like you’d let me leave without telling me anyway, right?”

At this point, everything is technical.

Fincher’s direction is straightforward. Working with Jeff Chernoweth, his cinematographer from Fight Club & The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the lighting is what you come to expect from the two. Colors in the present are muted, muddied and almost clinical. By contrast, Amy’s flashbacks appear bright and colorful, but the audience may notice this changing as the story progresses. You could almost say it’s the Zodiac color scheme layered on a different story. Gone Girl doesn’t feel like a “Fincher” movie in the way The Shining was Kubrick’s. It’s more of a Flynn story that would look really good if Fincher put it on screen. I’m not sure if there’s a better way to describe it, actually.

Gone Girl falters in the dialog at times. I had a few moments where scenes that felt fine in the novel fell flat in the film, particularly in some of the flashbacks. Have you ever had a moment where you watch a film, see two people talk to one another and say to yourself (or the person next to you), “Who says that, really?” The relationship of Nick and Amy was a hard, abbreviated sell for me, probably because of the time constraints. You know they’re together, and love is implied (and sexually displayed, I might add), but I can’t say that I recognized a big chemistry between Pike and Affleck. When acting around everyone else they’re great, but between each other, they lost me a little in the beginning. If it were a Blu Ray, I’d be tempted to tap that Chapter Forward button. Mind you, this is coming from a book to movie comparison, so a viewer that hasn’t read the book may respond differently to what’s on screen.

I will say that separately, Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck are wonderful in this as Nick & Amy. I hope that this gets Pike some more lead dramatic roles, as she was more than memorable here.

Both Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross handled the scoring duties for Gone Girl. In their 3rd go around with Fincher, the sounds are similar to The Social Network, though a bit more subdued. They have a few standout tracks, and their music blends well in Gone Girl, though.

Overall, Gone Girl makes for a interesting night at the cinema, but it’s best viewed if you can manage to avoid the hype and catch it just to sate a curious mind.