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Review: We Are Your Friends

Looking for a night of pulsing electronic music and adolescent debauchery? How about 90 minutes of Zac Efron’s smoldering gaze? Max Joseph’s We Are Your Friends is here for you, and you may be surprised at how appealing it proves to be.

The film serves as an innocent introduction to the world of Electronic Dance Music (EDM), intertwined with an accessible coming-of-age story and a good dosage of millennial angst. Though it’s a tired and conventional plotline, director Max Joseph creatively energizes the film with enough tricks to appease the wary.

Efron gives a heartfelt performance as Cole, a struggling 20-something DJ with big dreams and little direction. With his three childhood friends by his side, they exist on the outside of Hollywood, promoting clubs, attending auditions, and doing everything they can to escape the mundane future awaiting them in the Valley. When Cole’s not partying with the boys, he’s hard at work on his laptop, trying to create that one big hit that he believes will launch his career.

His luck changes when he meets a DJ named James Reed (Wes Bentley), who swiftly takes him under his wing and throws him into his world of fast-lane fame. Cole’s new mentor seems to have it all, including his stunning girlfriend Sophia (Emily Ratajkowski), but his disenchantment with the “scene” Cole is coveting becomes quickly apparent.

While Reed numbly drinks his days away, Cole and Sophie find themselves bonding over their similar angst and before we know it, they’re running hand in hand through Las Vegas in the direction of a lavish hotel suite. Between Cole’s feelings for Sophie, his admiration for his mentor, and his friends questioning it all, he’s forced to decide how badly he wants to see his name in lights.

Friends is Ratajkowski’s first lead in a feature film, and while her performance is intriguing, it would be nice to see her take on a role that is more than just a pretty face, which unfortunately is where the character of Sophie begins and ends. It’s Efron though, who steals the show. He manages to take a character that embodies more clichés than a movie should handle, and makes him surprisingly authentic.

Though the film has a solid backbone, too many ambiguous side plots weaken the message. For a movie entitled We Are Your Friends, Cole’s friendships teeter on interesting but are quickly forgotten. His passion for his craft and supposed talent is seen minimally, and bumps along the road are cleaned up haphazardly, leaving audiences dissatisfied more often than not.

The film is Joseph’s feature film directorial debut, best known for his MTV show Catfish. Joseph’s talent his evident, as he takes audiences on an artistic journey through the world of EDM with the help of animated pop-ups, catchy beats and beautiful actors. Storyline aside, Joseph has made a film that is immensely enjoyable on the ears and eyes (that means you, Emily!).

Fans of the EDM scene will undoubtedly be thrilled by the film’s wickedly addictive soundtrack. Joseph’s careful selection of songs makes all the difference in the film, building up energy that will have no trouble translating to the audience.

While at times the film feels like an endless music video, at the core of it is an honest coming-of-age story that probably would not have sustained itself if it weren’t for Efron’s warm performance and Ratajkowski’s haunting good looks. Joseph’s unique vision for the film allows it to stand out slightly from the rest of the millennial clutter in theatres.

Predictable but entertaining, behind the gritty Los Angeles backdrop and distractingly pretty people, lies a sweet universal tale of fighting for your dream.

We Are Your Friends opens in theatres everywhere today, Friday August 28.

[star v=3]

Kate White

Kate White works in PR in Toronto. She has a weakness for classic film and loves a good meet-cute. If you let her pick the movie, it will be When Harry Met Sally, every time.