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We Are Your Friends

2015-09-18 07:42

What it's about:

Aspiring DJ, Cole Carter, believes that all it takes is “one track” to make his mark as a professional music spinner but as he has to navigate his way through deadbeat friends, a self-destructive mentor and a potentially disastrous romantic relationship, he finds that the road to the top might be a whole lot less straightforward than he could ever have imagined.

What we thought:

Between its general drubbing from overseas critics and its status as one of the biggest box office bombs of the year. We Are Your Friends comes to these shores with a whole lot of baggage. Add to that my own personal bias of having little to absolutely no interest in electronic dance music and significantly less in the whole clubbing scene, and the film had something of an uphill battle in winning me over. Here's the thing, though: it kind of did.

Now, no one in their right mind would consider this film any sort of masterpiece – especially as it pretty consistently reminds you of far better films – but it is a surprisingly effective and affecting little indie-style (though, crucially, in light of its box office failure, not actually indie) drama. Hell, though I remain utterly uninterested in the music featured in the film, it even managed to convince me that EDM (as the kids call it) has far more going for it than I may have first thought.  

Part of the film's charm – and, if nothing else, it certainly has charm - comes from the actually quite understated direction from first-time feature-film director, Max Joseph, who co-wrote the similarly quietly charming script with Meaghan Oppenheimer, based off a story by Richard Silverman. There's nothing new or surprising here but it plays nicely within its genre confines, offering us some quite nicely drawn (if, at first, often irritating) characters, as well as an unsensationalised and surprisingly engrossing behind the scenes look at electronic dance music that is far more interested in the genre as an art form and in the way it affects is listeners than in the apparently often sordid lifestyle that accompanies it.         

While this approach may not hold the interest of more hardcore fans, as someone who is endlessly fascinated and, frankly, bowled over by the process of creating and composing music, it was precisely this that first drew me into the film, as the more the film revealed where its true interests lay, the more engrossed I became in the unfolding drama and the more I warmed up to its characters. Indeed, though I kind of hate to make this comparison, there is something of Love and Mercy in the way the film portrays the way Cole (Zac Efron) layers the sounds into the music he composes. Obviously, this fictional DJ ain't no Brian Wilson and the music in this film sure as hell ain't no Pet Sounds, but that it has any similarity at all to the creation of that masterwork is no small thing.

To match the charms of the (nonetheless admittedly cliché) script and the surprising effectiveness of the music, the film's cast boasts no big names outside of Efron himself (though more on that in a second) but they all do a pretty top notch job of elevating the material beyond its occasional dips into ordinariness. And, yes, I am including Emily Ratajkowski in this. Not only because she is not exactly known best for her acting abilities but because, even she has yet to prove herself to be a truly talented actress, she is actually used very effectively here – and I'm not only talking about her very obvious, um, physical charms.

As for Efron, after appearing in two fairly abominable comedies (Bad Neighbors and, shudder, That Awkward Moment – though he, like the rest of the cast, was actually still pretty good in the former), he is back on much firmer ground here, as he proves, once again, that he is pretty easily one of the most under-appreciated actors around – though, at the same time, proving that maybe he really is more of a character actor than a full-blown leading man who can hold up major Hollywood blockbuster. And, frankly, after this film's disastrous showing at the box office, I wouldn't be surprised if that's the direction his career heads from now on. And, as a fan of stuff like Me and Orson Wells and The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, I would be the last person to complain.

Oh and, as for the film's monumental failure at the box office, I can only blame its title, which manages to be simultaneously bland, generic and hideously clumsy. We. Are. Your. Friends. It just doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, now does it?

Read more on:    zac efron  |  movies

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