WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS (UK | France | USA/16/96mins)
Directed by Max Joseph. Starring Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Jonny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, Jon Bernthal
THE PLOT: Cole Carter (Zac Efron) wants nothing more than to be a successful DJ. In order to do this, he knows he has to just create one fantastic track. Cole befriends the hugely successful Paul Reed (Wes Betley), and as the two work on Cole’s killer track, Cole becomes closer to Reed’s girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski).
THE VERDICT: There is something familiar at the heart of Max Joseph’s WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS – named after a track by Justice Vs Simian – but although we may have seen this story in various different guises over the years, there is enough charm and good humour here for the film to work on it’s own.
Although the character is slightly generic, Zac Efron is warm and engaging in the lead role as Cole; he quickly gets audience sympathy on his side and, even though he loses it at times, he quickly gains it back. Wes Bentley is on fine form as the alcohol and drug addled success who has got lost in his own myth, and delivers brilliant lines such as ‘A spliff!? What are you, French?’ with humour and wit. Emily Ratajkowski plays Sophie well enough; she has her wits about her for the most part, but rarely comes off as anything other than vanilla. The rest of the cast is made up of Jon Bernthal, Shiloh Fernandez, Jonny Weston and Brittany Furlan in small but rather hilarious role.
Max Joseph and Meaghan Oppenheimer’s screenplay just so happens to be about a DJ from the San Fernando Valley in LA trying to make it, but in reality, could be about anyone trying to make it anywhere. The tale of a man taking a day job he hates in order to make rent is a rather familiar track, as is the story of a group of friends torn apart when someone new comes into the mix. All of this familiarity is saved through the lead character being just charming and engaging enough to keep the audience interested, plus some wonderful scenes where paintings come to life and Cole explains his life through voice over and on screen graphics. The film is a story about growing up and letting go of the dreams that are holding the characters back, as well as fighting for the ones they believe in, while dancing and drinking the night away with pretty people in pretty places. This is a delicate balance done well, and the final moment of redemption is an engaging and touching one, with everything tying up neatly but in a poignant way.
As director, Max Joseph allows WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS to flow along at a decent pace. The music is strong, the sets and costumes bright and colourful, and the relationship between the three central characters is engaging. Ideas come and go, however, with the stylistic touches being dropped fairly soon into the film; this allows the film to focus on the story being told, but also makes it feel more generic than it needs to.
In all, WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS is light enough and fluffy enough to be entertaining and, although there are moments of darkness, they never seem to massively impact on the characters. Zac Efron and Wes Bentley are on great form, the music is strong and, although we have seen stories similar to this before, WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS is bright and colourful, and well directed enough to bring the audience in once more.
Review by Brogen Hayes

We Are Your Friends
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Bright and colourful
  • filmbuff2011

    If you’ve been watching Catfish: The TV Show recently, then you’ll know that We Are Your Friends is the film that co-host Max Joseph has been working on. It’s an auspicious debut, moving to an energising, infectious beat. Cole (Zac Efron) is an LA suburbanite trying to get through those uncertain 20s and find something to latch onto with a passion. He aspires to be a DJ of note, working the crowds with something a lot less ordinary. He meets Reed (Wes Bentley), an experienced DJ who has now lost his original touch and is playing it stale and safe with his music in the LA nightclub scene. Cole wants to experiment more, so he takes Reed’s advice to try something a bit more organic in his sound. This brings him into contact with Reed’s glamourous girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), with whom he shares an instant attraction. He also holds down a 9 – 5 job to pay the bills. But if he wants to break the mould, then he’ll have to find that unique sound and set himself on the path to fame and fortune… Joseph has said that the story is partly inspired by his experiences on Catfish, even borrowing lines from some of the people on the show and writing them into the film (there have been some dodgy DJs on the show). The script, co-written by Joseph, Meaghan Oppenheimer and Richard Silverman, works hard to capture that carefree vibe of twentysomething life, without mortgages, babies and marriages to worry about. The biggest worry that Cole has is whether he should be taking money from his boss (Jon Bernthal) for ripping off a client on a real-estate deal. The film is full of improbably beautiful people, but hey, this is LA. It’s a town full of actors. Efron is less irritating than usual, actually bringing some complexity to what could have been a vacuous character. Model and film newcomer Ratajkowski is eye-catching without being too distracting. There are some flaws in the film, like some variable acting from the supporting actors. A character death in the film doesn’t seem to register much on the emotional scale, perhaps because not enough time was invested in the character to begin with. But there’s certainly enough here to suggest that, should Catfish wrap up in the near future, Joseph has a bright career behind the camera as a director. We Are Your Friends moves to its own pumped-up beat and is all the better for it. ***