We Are Your Friends samples cliché

Zac Efron plays a young man from the San Fernando Valley looking to make it as a top-tier DJ in this half-empty can of cinematic Red Bull that has lots of energy but lacks substance, soul and any semblance of intelligence

 

We Are Your Friends

2/5

Starring: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Jonny Weston, Alex Shaffer, Jon Bernthal

Directed by: Max Joseph

Running time: 96 minutes

MPAA Rating: Restricted

By Katherine Monk

If these are my friends, who needs enemies? Riding through the San Fernando Valley on pumped up stallions of self-importance, the four lead characters in We Are Your Friends feel like riders of the modern apocalypse.

 

Carrying selfie sticks instead of scythes and wearing headphones and hoodies as they survey the scorched landscape of greater L.A., Cole (Zac Efron), Mason (Jonny Weston), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) and Squirrel (Alex Shaffer) move as a man group, galloping through clubs, promoting shows and selling drugs to party-goers to make ends meet.

 

They aren’t particularly nice guys, but they aren’t evil either. They’re just average Valley dwellers living in the shadows of the rich and famous, waiting for their shot at the big time because that’s how they think life goes down: like some cheesy Hollywood movie where all you have to do is work hard enough, and prove your worth to the adoring masses.

 

These pathetic kids think happiness lies at the end of a celebrity rainbow, and who can blame them? They’ve been staring into screens and mirrored surfaces their entire lives, snorting experience for immediate gratification, desperately seeking outside affirmation to validate their fantasy avatars.

 

They really do believe it’s just a matter of time before they’re living the Entourage lifestyle, with Ollie becoming a famous actor and Cole headlining at Electric Daisy, but day after uneventful day, the future grows dimmer.

 

Instead of four up and coming talents, they’re starting to look like four losers, desperately hanging on to some liquor ad fantasy of the perpetual party.

 

Everything that makes them less-than-likable screen characters are also what make them so believable, so hats off to Max Joseph for showing us the other side of Los Angeles—where nobodies pretend they are somebodies, and 20-year-old women indulge in lip injections and boob jobs.

 

There’s something sick at the very centre of this party culture, and the movie wanders around it – poking at its festering sores and cataract eyes – without actually taking its pulse.

 

A wishy-washy message movie that has elements of Saturday Night Fever thanks to its detailed portrayal of a party subculture and its denizens, We Are Your Friends fails to find the gravitas of the John Travolta classic because Cole feels like cardboard.

A wishy-washy message movie that has elements of Saturday Night Fever thanks to its detailed portrayal of a party subculture and its denizens, We Are Your Friends fails to find the gravitas of the John Travolta classic because Cole feels like cardboard.

This isn’t a knock to Efron, who always looks like he wandered out of a Tommy Hilfiger magazine ad. The former High School musical star has chops and an ability to look emotionally distressed – especially when those turquoise irises fill up with saline – but the role of Cole is so thin and flat, he can’t bring any real dimension to the character.

 

Making things even tougher is the casting of Emily Ratajkowski – a model from Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines – in the role of the romantic interest Sophie.

 

Ratajkowski’s look is believably Angeleno, thanks to the overstuffed lips and the Kardahsian chassis, but she’s a cool presence on camera – a pretty duck paddling around a shallow pool.

 

The only character with any edge is James (Wes Bentley), a successful DJ with a house in the hills and a vintage Mustang parked outside. James and Sophie are a couple, but when James befriends Cole and opens doors for the young wannabe, a love triangle develops.

 

Cole is ecstatic that he’s hanging out with such glam folk, but his friends feel abandoned. Will Cole choose his new famous peeps, or keep it real with his loser buddies in the Valley?

 

The way this movie presents it, it’s not even a choice. Things passively happen to Cole, which means there isn’t a sharp edge in the drawer. He’s just a blunt instrument that director Joseph uses to hammer in the pretty nails of scenery and spout off about the spiritual significance of spinning.

 

These scenes that use animation and effects to explain how 120 beats per minute can turn humans into putty are so condescending and simple, they feel like a modern take on Duck and Cover.

 

Sadly, this movie does not end with the A-bomb vaporizing the San Fernando Valley. Surprise: It ends with Cole playing his heart out before a sold-out sea of music fans, affirming all that is fake and empty – and in this particular milieu, all that is human.

 

@katherinemonk

 

We Are Your Friends opens in theatres August 28.

THE EX-PRESS.COM

-30-

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Movie review: We Are Your Friends - Zac Efron stars as a wannabe DJ in this dumber, slower, less interesting version on Saturday Night Fever. -- Katherine Monk

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