By: Addison Wylie
In five years, when you catch We Are Your Friends on cable, you’ll regret not seeing it in theatres. For me, I felt like I was watching an exciting, addictive shockwave. A realized movie that knew the power of music and its behavioural persuasion, as well as the importance of a key controller. The movie may not have fast cars or roaring dinosaurs, but We Are Your Friends calls for a big screen experience. It immerses the audience just as the right music can easily do to a crowded club.
We Are Your Friends, unfairly, won’t be remembered by the general public as how I described it. Unfortunately, the film’s box office return has offered more of an incentive for social media cynics and snarky journalists to take pot shots at it. If you do not fall in either of these categories, there’s still time to turn away and make up your own mind about Max Joseph’s film.
Until I heard the film’s catalogue of swear words and saw the drug use, I had no idea why We Are our Friends performed so poorly with a younger tween audience. It had a thumping trailer, upbeat commercials, and was even inadvertently advertised during the fourth season of MTV’s Catfish when the show explained the absence of co-star Max Joseph (director/co-writer of WAYF). I suppose with a PG-13 stamp, the film would’ve been more accessible, but then the film would’ve felt dishonest and poppy (does anyone remember Undiscovered starring Ashlee Simpson?).
SInce Joseph and co-writer Meaghan Oppenheimer have decided to make more adult fare, We Are Your Friends doesn’t feel like it cuts corners to explain the difficulty of an unorthodox career. Cole (played by Zac Efron) vies to be a popular DJ. He doesn’t have his sights set on being world renowned since he can see how the mighty can fall (he’s observant of another high profile DJ named James Reed [played by Wes Bentley]), but Cole wants to leave a significant impact on the music scene.
Cole knows how to tap into a person’s psyche using a laptop and a baseline, which is what catches James’ eyes and ears. The two end up working together. James is cocky, but can intelligently mentor Cole. But, James is also an alcoholic and allows his inhibitions to take over too often. The free flowing story captures Cole’s aspirations, his friendships to other beach bum buddies, and his relationship to James’ girlfriend Sophie (played by Emily Ratajkowski).
Joseph, influenced by Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and other club scene imagery, creates a vision for his movie that’s inconsistent albeit infinitely interesting. He chooses to illustrate learning experiences through frenetic graphics and subtitles, yet abandons this technique when Cole further matures. It’s unclear whether or not this choice was intentional, but it works nonetheless and brings Cole’s character down to a more realistic plane of existence where go-nowhere lifestyles are more than “just fun and games”.
Efron is a great trustworthy presence, Bentley is fascinatingly unpredictable, and even though Ratajkowski may have primarily been cast based on physical, curvy assets, she fits in as well. Cole’s punchy pals sometime sound like older posers who don’t exactly know their street lingo (does anyone remember Grind?), but their camaraderie later helps flesh out their purposes – or lack thereof.
As for Max Joseph, I sure hope this whirlwind of “whatever” hasn’t put him off of filmmaking. I hope he realizes that his film has a force, a talent, and an ability to inspire. If the final scene of We Are Your Friends doesn’t make you want to run out and do something in the moment, check your pulse.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie