Max Joseph’s directorial debut – having previously made a name for himself on MTV’s Catfish – is We Are Your Friends, set amidst the dance scene in the underbelly of Californian society. Much like the tracks featured, this film is structured like any dance song should: with a slow, pulsating build up, before hitting the crescendo, with a climax to bring a sense of clarity to proceedings. The problem is, however, if this was a dance song, it wouldn’t be a particularly good one.
The aspiring DJ at the heart of this story is Cole Carter (Zac Efron), desperate to make an impact on the scene, and is rewarded when he’s taken in under the wing of the successful DJ James (Wes Bentley). Though this means Cole drifts away from his closest friends Mason (Jonny Weston), Squirrel (Alex Shaffer) and Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez), he’s a little too distracted to give it much thought, when he encounters the beguiling Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski) – who, to his annoyance, is going out with his new mentor.
Efron represents the viewer in this film, as something of a cipher, taking a back seat and watching this madcap world revolve around him. There’s barely a likeable character to invest in, however, with too many people talking about things like ‘synergy’ and ‘connecting to the music, bro’ without any sense of irony. Nonetheless, if you can manage to not let that grate on you (which isn’t easy) – then you can admire this film for depicting a very particular and precarious age group, in their early 20s, caught somewhere between college and full-time employment; those who are young enough not to care, but old enough to know better, where the future is uncertain, and their feeling of youthful invincibility is drifting away from them. It’s a theme that lingers over this production and provides it with its most engaging moments.
If you were to read the screenplay before watching We Are Your Friends, you would be preparing yourself for something nauseating – so it’s worth commending Joseph for presenting a film that’s at the very worst disappointing. Most of that is down to the fact he has told this story in a creative way, one that is playful and resourceful. But, much like a night out at a club in real life, most of this film will be best forgotten, but there’s the occasional fun moment that you can take away with you. Plus, there’s no hangover, which is always a bonus.