We Are Your Friends review: In Zac Efron's hands, even EDM turns kitschy
If you’re turning to We Are Your Friends because you loved Pete Tong, prepare for a rude shock. This film is not a sendoff to EDM fans, but a cookie cutter, coming-of-age rom com, with a sprinkling of lame and generic EDM to look ‘hep’ and ‘cool’.
There aren’t many movies on electronic dance music (EDM) or its industrial-techno-underground flavours. The 2004 Michael Dowse film It’s All Gone Pete Tong was one of the first of its kind and it turned out to be a truly stunning sendoff to EDM fans, thanks to it’s unique plot featuring a deaf DJ, mouthwatering Ibiza beach party locales, infectious soundtrack, and authentic depiction of how a famous DJ creates his music and struggles with meeting expectations. For anyone who likes this kind of music, Pete Tong made one yearn for more such films.
So it becomes a pleasant surprise to see We Are Your Friends with a similar plot and setting, with the beautiful Zac Efron playing the central DJ protagonist. Unfortunately the film’s quality is nothing like Pete Tong’s. If you’re turning to We Are Your Friends because you loved Pete Tong, prepare for a rude shock.
This film is not a sendoff to EDM fans, but a cookie cutter, coming-of-age rom com, with a sprinkling of lame and generic EDM to look ‘hep’ and ‘cool’. Like most famous underground DJs who sold out and began belting out generic beats for commercial clubhouse and airtime gains, We Are Your Friends panders to the younger and dumber audience with the hope of striking box office gold.
Directed by debutant Max Joseph, We Are Your Friends is fake, much like his MTV show Catfish. Efron wears a tight tank top and expensive headgear around his neck and hey presto! He’s genius DJ Cole. All it takes, Cole says, is one song to become a legend. We’re shown scenes of Cole matching beats on his laptop and doing bro-tastic things with his friendbro to establish that he’s a great DJ.
But when he gets a chance to collaborate with the famous DJ Reed (Wes Bentley), he takes a bit too much of a liking for Reed’s assistant/girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski). Will Cole have the strength to defy Sophie’s permanent cleavage display? Will he finally become a great DJ? Watch this flat and clichéd film to find out. Hint: Cole’s DJing skills are no better than Emraan Hashmi guessing cricket scores with his sixth sense in Jannat 2.
The only likable aspect of this film is Bentley, to whom being washed out, alcoholic, and a former legend seems to come effortlessly. Everything and everyone else is corny beyond belief. Cole belts out cringe-inducing, inspirational lines like, “Sounds are your soul. Build them from scratch, find new ones”. During his brotastic fraternity scenes, he whips out, “Don’t bro me until you know me”. His genius in skills are Bollywoodesque – he has some superhero power of listening to his audiences’ heartbeat rhythm and rendering corresponding beats per minute through his turntable. With such ridiculous scenes constantly coming at you, compounded with the lame, forbidden-romance angle between Cole and his mentor’s girl Sophie, the film’s serious attempts at educating you about EDM production have an equally comical effect.
Ultimately We Are Your Friends is a young adult novel, trying to disguise itself as something more. If the filmmakers had gone the whole hog or gone full Nicholas Sparks, the film may have been more watchable. It’s the pretense of showing the audience a serious, coming-of-age, musical story that grates. The whole ‘follow your dreams’ narrative is tackily done, as is the weird subplot of a villainous real estate agent who suddenly disappears from the movie.
Those exasperated by this film’s shambling depiction of EDM are requested to either watch Pete Tong or experience the love letter to French underground-music, Eden.
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