Starring: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski
Director: Max Joseph
Screenplay: Max Joseph, Meaghan Oppenheimer
Drama/Music/Romance, Rated: R
Running Time: 96 minutes
Release Date: August 28, 2015
Well Scott, it looks like another movie about young men from the bad side of town making their way in the music industry.
Different guys, different music, different movie. But is it the basically the same story? Let’s find out.
We’re introduced to four young men living in the south side of the Los Angeles valley. Cole had dreams of setting the world on fire with his one track of Electronic Dance Music. He and his friends party it up each night to the point of unconsciousness. They make a few bucks a week encouraging young people to drop by the local club and buy drinks. Things are going pretty well when Cole meets James, an older and more experienced DJ.
James takes an interest in Cole and recognizes his potential as a DJ. Cole, on the other hand, takes an interest in James’ girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski). Meanwhile, to make ends meet, Cole and his friends are lured into working for a real estate company that preys on homeowners caught in a foreclosure. Cole has some decisions to make about love, priorities, and career.
Scott, We Are Your Friends is a weak attempt to offer a complement to the outstanding Straight Outta Compton. WAYF has a meandering almost pointless plot that seemed to be knit together scenes from every Saturday Morning Special – ever. Boy wants career. Boy meets evil mentor. Boy falls in love with mentor’s girl. Best friend dies. Boy succeeds in career and integrate loss into show.
Zac Efron seems out of place in this movie. He does a great job of delivering despite a lackluster script. I enjoyed him in last year’s Neighbors where he was convincing as the head frat boy. Given the opportunity, Efron can make us believe he is… well pretty much as he is.
Greg, We Are Your Friends is a movie with a good heart but poor execution, as you note. The good heart is revealed in Cole’s pure motives to improve himself, to help those who were exploited by the real estate scheme, and to play a song whose main lyric is “there’s gotta be something better than this.” This movie guides us through the upward mobility of our hero Cole, who must recognize one mentoring as dark, and act on it, and another mentoring as beneficial, and act on that one, too.
Comparisons to Straight Outta Compton are inevitable, I suppose. It’s a little unfair to do so, as Compton is a (mostly) true story and has interesting cultural and institutional barriers for the group of heroes to overcome. We Are Your Friends is more about a lone hero who must wrestle with his conscience while developing his talent. There’s a different emphasis in the two movies, with really only music being the common denominator.
Cole has three friends and each represents a different stereotype of young men. There’s the leader, Mason, who lives for today and whose highest ambition is to find an apartment where they can all live together. Then there’s Ollie who wants to be an actor but can’t find a gig. And finally, there’s Squirrel who is the most naive of the four but sees things more clearly than the rest. Of course, he must die. Cole represents the “one who succeeds” as he realizes his dream despite betraying his mentor.
Good description of the fraternity hero ensemble, Greg. I enjoyed the battle of the dueling mentors. Cole is being guided by James, who is a positive mentor in terms of offering professional guidance. But Cole is also under the influence of Paige (Jon Bernthal), a man who has no qualms about finding a legal way to steal homes from financially struggling homeowners. Cole is transformed by both mentors; he listens to the good mentor but defies the dark one. Both mentors help shape Cole’s character in different ways and help him transform as a hero.
Also playing a pivotal role in the film is Sophie, who turns in a voluptuous performance. The romance between Cole and Sophie is telegraphed early when we see them get off to a bad start. Just for once, I’d like to see filmmakers dare to make a movie in which two lovers do not initially hate each other. If I saw this I think I’d fall out of my theater seat.
We Are Your Friends is a coming of age story for post-adolescents. It looks at four possible paths for young men including death due to overindulgence. I found that almost everything in the story was predicted from the beginning. Nothing in this movie surprised me. I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the recent Straight Outta Compton which was a far superior film. WAYF was simplistic, formulaic, and uninspiring. The Electronic Dance Music that James and Cole were supposed to be experts in seemed just as simplistic. I found myself wondering if there are festivals where thousands of people stand in the hot sun and listen to “hot licks.” I give WAYF just 2 out of 5 Reels.
Cole is a pretty good hero, even if he is cut from familiar cloth. He starts out naive and inexperienced and through the support of an older mentor becomes the man we all know he can be. Zac Efron is too good for this role and I wonder if he needs a new agent. Still, Efron takes the role seriously and displays a range of emotions from immature to chagrined to mournful and finally redeemed. I give Cole 3 out of 5 Heroes.
The supporting characters are a good collection of archetypes. As I pointed out earlier, the three other young men in the fraternity ensemble represent alternative paths that Cole could have taken. The romantic interest was an inevitable distraction. The good mentor was troubled and we’re exposed to some of his backstory. The dark mentor on the other hand was less textured but offered a good contrast. I give this group 3 out of 5 Cast points.
We Are Your Friends is harmless entertainment about the rising career of a DJ. There is a lot of music in this movie that is not in my wheelhouse, but I could appreciate the art and the science of creating sounds that people can rock their bodies to. As I’ve mentioned, there is a lot of heart in this film, but also a lot of predictable fluff. I give We Are Your Friends a rating of 2 Reels out of 5.
The hero story has its charms and does feature our hero Cole undergoing a transformation of talent along with a transformation of moral conscience. Cole receives help along the way from James, Sophie, and his friends. His dark mentor Paige also teaches him how not to conduct oneself and prods Cole toward enlightenment. I can award Cole 3 Heroes out of 5.
The supporting characters are adequate for the task, but I wasn’t too fond of Cole’s group of friends. Cole seems too smart to tolerate their Neanderthal ways but I suppose the filmmakers wanted to inject some drama into Cole’s life for entertainment’s sake. The two mentors were interesting, and Sophie, besides having her obvious charms, played a key role in dividing Cole from his good mentor. This support group earns a rating of 3 out of 5.