We Are Your Friends (Warner Bros., R)

We Are Your Friends 75We Are Your Friends is a film it’s hard to imagine anybody liking very much at all.

 

 

 

We Are Your Friends 500

At first, the new Zac Efron vehicle We Are Your Friends appears to be him looking for his Spring Breakers—all bad behavior and electronic beats and examination of what seems to be a bankrupt culture. Efron is one of those actors I like, but who has never done virtually anything of merit—he’s worked with good directors (Richard Linklater, Lee Daniels, Ramin Bahrani) on projects that had potential, and he’s at least somewhat capable as an actor, but virtually every film he’s ever been in has fallen short, often to the extreme. (It says something that his best performance to date was in the Hollywood comedy Neighbors, which remains the only film of his I’ll say I like with no qualifications.) And as We Are Your Friends goes on, you’ll find that it isn’t really all that much like Spring Breakers after all, though it would be a hell of a lot more interesting if it were.

In fact, We Are Your Friends bears more similarities to this year’s music biopics than it does to Breakers. Efron plays Cole, a DJ who has lots of theories on how you only need one good track as a DJ, how to assemble said track, etc. The thing is, while Cole has potential, he really isn’t nearly as good as he thinks he is, which fact comes into stark relief when he becomes something of a mentee to a celebrity DJ named James (Wes Bentley, in the film’s best performance, not that that’s saying much). James has a live-in girlfriend/assistant named Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski) whom Cole unwittingly hits on very shortly prior to his meeting James for the first time, which leads to the obligatory tension between Cole and Sophie anytime they’re near each other. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see where all of this is heading.

Not that this film as it is could ever have been a successful film in the first place, but it suffers all the more from coming so shortly on the heels of stuff like Straight Outta Compton and Love & Mercy. While these three films all depict very different styles of music, all three feature what are surely intended to be show-stopping “building a track from scratch” scenes, and where Compton and Love & Mercy nail it, We Are Your Friends is generic and questionable, at best.

In fairness, generally speaking I don’t care for the electronic music Friends studies in the first place, so it was always going to be an uphill battle with me. But with that in mind, there are absolutely movies that I adore that make heavy use of this kind of music—Millenium Mambo, Go, even Trainspotting to a limited extent—which is further evidence that sheer artfulness can make you care about things you otherwise wouldn’t have.

The characters in We Are Your Friends are all either generic or outwardly annoying; no one really wins your sympathies. In the first third of the movie the annoying characters are more front-and-center than they are later on, and so at first it looks like watching this film will be a more painful experience than it really is. This describes the whole film, really—it’s constantly lowering your expectations to basement level, and then it does marginally better than that, so while it’s a pretty terrible film it’s never quite as terrible as you think it’s going to be.

With this in mind, the film gets some credit for not having Ms. Ratajkowski take off her clothes, for what may be the first time in any performance of her adult career. But this doesn’t mean they don’t objectify the hell out of her—they keep her boobs in the frame at all times, often to the exclusion of all else—and it takes some effort to think of a speaking female role aside from hers, despite the fact that the film has a pretty large cast. Also, the numerous scenes of Sophie dancing can’t help but call to mind Robin Thicke’s repugnant-ass “Blurred Lines,” which is never a good thing. It’s hard not to notice how overall unsexy this film is, despite that it stars two of their generation’s biggest sex symbols.

Ultimately, We Are Your Friends is a film it’s hard to imagine anybody liking very much at all; it’s boring and generic and bad, and can’t be bothered to justify its existence. | Pete Timmermann

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