We Are Your Friends
(MA15+) Starring: Zac Efron, Emily Ratajkowski, Wes Bentley
It might be a stretch for the average music lover to realise that the life of a DJ (disc jockey) can be more than playing music at a high school dance. In the world of electronic dance music (EDM), the opportunities seem limitless when considering potential global stardom and producing their own music.
We Are Your Friends is about the life of Cole Carter (Zac Efron), a young DJ who is striving to break into the EDM club scene. Cole and his crew of friends work various jobs to try to make ends meet in the San Fernando Valley in California, while hoping to do something bigger with their lives. Throughout their various attempts to get a step up in life and to assist Cole in making a name for himself in the club scene, he does finally get a break. This happens through a chance meeting with an established DJ, James Reed (Wes Bentley). He is willing to give the young prodigy an inside track into the bigger-picture world of the disc jockey. Being caught between the worlds of the San Fernando Valley and the life of the rich and famous, Cole has to work out where he is willing to place his loyalties and his future. The tension that pulls his life in multiple directions is how to stay connected with his crew, while considering the advantages of his mentorship with James. Cole’s also got to determine if he is willing to scrap it all for a relationship with Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), who happens to be James’ girlfriend. In this young DJ’s life, he has to make his decisions and see where the path leads him.
After watching We Are Your Friends, the question that first came to mind is, ‘what is the acceptable length of a music video?’ Through music and well-choreographed sequences, new director Max Joseph attempts to provide an access-all-areas pass to the professional side of the music industry, particularly the EDM sector. Even though there are brief moments of well-timed scripting, creative cinematography and glimpses of character development, Joseph’s production never seems to rise above a finely orchestrated music video.
Also, Joseph does not allow the audience to forget that this is Zac Efron’s film. He is in every scene, but is never allowed to develop Cole beyond a singular dimension of life as a DJ. Cole is surrounded by a wealth of supporting personalities. They offer promising components that could lead to complexity within this drama, such as the entourage of young hooligans and the relationship between Cole and James. But these promising moments never move beyond the superficial, as the script and acting leaves Cole disengaged from each relational possibility. Whenever there seems to be a pathway to deeper considerations, something else distracts him. His troupe of lost boys provide the necessary spirit that should balance out the Cole Carter character’s lack of enthusiasm but, in the end, they become mere caricatures of the California scene.
As James, Bentley provides a glimmer of maturity and even tries to move toward the profound mentor role. But he is relegated to quippy one liners and only ‘the means to an end’ for Cole’s DJ dreams. Dreams that prove to be empty and wasted on a life of alcohol, drugs and broken relationships. The script provides minimal dialogue and is reliant on the visual appeal of the actors and the California scenery, which is not enough to pull this above an MTV style docudrama. Ultimately, this film is for the person who desires to look at pretty people gyrating to electronic music.
We Are Your Friends develops into an ecclesiastical adventure. One that shows life is merely a vapour or, at least, life is relegated to being one music tract that is pumped out at 128 BPM (beats per minute). But because this film has no heart, all is meaningless.
This coming-of-age film epitomises the hedonistic lifestyle of a generation. ‘If I can find that one thing, if I can get that one break or if only people would see me for the talent that I am, then everything will be good.’ So much of this story is encapsulated in the wisdom book of Ecclesiastes, showing that there truly is nothing new under the California sun.
Even if people are able to get that ‘one thing’ that will make the difference in their lives, can they be satisfied with what has been given to them. Is that one thing, that one moment or maybe that one person enough — or is there always going to be something more to strive to achieve? It is one of the challenges of the human condition to ask when is enough, enough?
The answer to this question is found in the twelfth chapter of the aforementioned book of wisdom.
Looking through its pages there is a golden nugget of truth that provides the answers to these and more of life’s bigger questions.
What are some of the bigger considerations from this film?
Read Ecclesiastes to see what is meant by the statements ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ and ‘life is a vapour’, as well as to find the golden nugget of truth in chapter 12.