We Are Your Friends

A lot to like, a lot to hate.


We Are Your Friends

  • A lot to like, a lot to hate.

We Are Your Friends

  • A lot to like, a lot to hate.


Rated

R

Starring

Zac Efron
Wes Bentley
Emily Ratajkowski
Alex Shaffer
John Bernthal

Written by

Richard Silverman
Max Joseph
Meaghan Oppenheimer

Directed by

Max Joseph


What to Expect

I’m not gonna lie; I can’t keep count of the number of times I’ve watched the first official trailer of We Are Your Friends.

And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it: although far, far behind the flawlessly edited and sound-designed trailers of Mad Max: Fury Road, the trailer for this apparently spunky-looking film have held a flair unlike any other mainstream rags-to-riches drama film – or any other mainstream film this year for that matter. Mix that with what’s possibly looking like one of the best genre-heavy compilation soundtracks, and the lay-viewer is definitely down for some more of the film.

But on a wider spectrum, what – besides Zac – does the film really give the viewer to expect? To that, there are two possible answers:

  • Pitching in parts of the storyline from what’s being seen in the trailers, one’s going to definitely notice the worn down to-do list the film has the potential of going for; or
  • Well, nothing – considering how otherwise unclear the trailers actually are (whether it is for a good or bad reason is yet to be seen), and how relatively new its team of writers here are too.

I guess that’s the aura the film’s going for anyway. I mean, you’ve got the host-creator-cinematographer of the ongoing television show Catfish bringing in his directorial debut with this film, which can either lead to the audience clearly getting catfished when they’re getting into the cinemas, or getting something pleasantly taken-aback surprising.

But I guess that’s what I went to find out, because for some rather odd reason I couldn’t possibly fathom, here I was, at the cinemas, ready to find out if the movie ended up reaching my surreally bloated expectations of the film.

Of course, they weren’t exactly all fulfilled. But there’s a slight twist to that.

What’s it About?

In search of that one track, struggling DJ Cole Carter’s (Zac Efron) on the lookout to his ticket to fame when he catches the eye of the otherwise cynical and depressed James Reed (Wes Bentley), the IT thing in the disc jockeying circle, who decides to mentor him to eventual success. Of course, there’s just one hitch: he falls in love with James’ assistant-girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski).

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

What's up? I'm Cole Carter.

What’s up? I’m Cole Carter.

Despite my obvious excitement of the film, my skepticism has always taken a bigger form within myself. And really, come to think of it, the lacking of surety is definitely warranted, considering quite a bunch of films don’t really fulfill any expectations per se. Club that with the overall negativity thrown at the film because of Zac Efron (what?), and you’re definitely wondering if you’re really going to like the film as much as you’d expect to.

But here’s the thing: there was a lot to like here. Joseph seems to have been extremely clear about how the film would look: raw, fast in movement and extremely bright, if visually ambitious in its own small-scale way. Making use of a lot of visual storytelling devices from different levels of filmmaking, the movie blends them in to ultimately form a deliciously snazzy looking product that leaves behind a set of things to like about it physically. Usage of fun motion graphics work in the form of text slates for three-fourths of the film and (possible?) rotoscoped animation during a rather impressively shot and executed scene where Cole and James are high out of their minds (and Cole’s face being the only live-action face for a few split seconds spliced here and there to give the viewers that hint of him having flashes of consciousness and sanity within) would probably be just some of the many, many storytelling cards having been well played. Add to that Short Term 12 fame cinematographer Brett Pawlak’s trademark raw direction of moving photography that plays around with lighting as deliciously as movement within shots.

Which is where I’d like to take a moment to talk about the camerawork of the film. The non-uniformity of a single type of camera might come off a bit too clunky for some, considering there are a lot of shots that definitely feel like they’ve been shot on a DSLR (the quick panning in some shots gave that away). This poses two differing arguments, one of which definitely centers around Joseph being particularly clear about the type of movie he’d want to see on-screen on a strictly visual level. But then there’s this other side; Joseph’s weirdly stuck to the inherently betray-able non-fiction-television-show format that he’s still otherwise a part of, and that he should have stuck to making a movie that looks like a movie more than anything else. Let us, however, take a moment to counter-question the latter thought by asking ourselves this: in this day and age, where the definition of movies are ever-broadening by the moment, should there be any fence around how a movie’s specifically supposed to look like?

Take a moment to think about that.

One interesting thing I seemed to note was Bentley’s James Reed and his (rather true) claim of the need of tracks to be less of royalty-free, (possibly) workstation provided samples in favor of organicity – a rather unhidden foreshadow to what unfolds next (ugh). And while this looks like just the tip of the iceberg to many, I could relate to that on a lot of levels, mainly because I’ve done some extremely mediocre tries at a sourced digital audio workstation in my computer. Moreover, I’ve seen with these up-and-coming DJs who – and unfortunately they may mean well, I guess – feel the need to tag, or group message everyone, desperately calling the world out to listen to their remixes. All you’re able to hear then within such tracks are sourced, pre-recorded loops and samples that don’t offer anything new or worthy to be heard even. Calling out on such bullshit (to a limited extent), the film also touches on quite a few aspects of electronic music production that the otherwise glamorous outlook on DJs don’t seem to show. There’s raw, unmixed music; there’s the staring at the computer and the aimless banging of the keyboard. There’s the lack of inspiration and then there’s (an albeit unnecessary) lot of it.

Party's a little dull, isn't it?

Party’s a little dull, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, the movie has dips (and crashes) aplenty. The process of music production is clunky and feels mostly like there’s nothing more to it than is displayed in the film, mostly at the cost of  the hardcore authenticity this definitely deserved. There are a lot of characters that seem like they’ve been seen in a ton of other shows and films – and the bonding between the Valley lot has definite potential to make the viewers feel like they’re watching an accidental prequel-spin-off of the Entourage franchise. Cole’s character, for example, is charming and easy-going, but in a rather generic, oh-I-know-he’s-that-kinda-guy sorta way. And then there’s the rest of the characters too: disillusioned former superstar takes in a struggler and mentors them, struggler has their own bunch of weirdos for friends (each having their own singular character-type), there’s overconfidence, shit gets real, and hello redemption! And considering the movie treads some very particular parts of the exhausted struggle-to-success checklist, it does tend to feel predictable in a lot of places you’d wish the movie seriously wasn’t. Within all of this formulaic writing there are moments of pondering one completely loses out on. A certain sub-plot featuring the Valley gang taking up a shitty day-job they don’t like to earn “some real lude”, literally and metaphorically. This particular subplot, although flat in execution, definitely gives out an aura of reliability to those in the audience who are consistently trapped in the fences of corporatization at the cost of their dreams.

But I think one of the biggest problems – out of all of them – is the underutilization of consequence after conflict. More than halfway through the film, there’s a major incident that happens, and although you’re made to see that it’s affected everyone, you can’t really see any consequence of that conflict. And believe you me, you’ll find a thousand more logical could-be consequences to the incident that will run through your head. yes, you touch lightly upon cause-and-effect, but does that warrant a singular, glorified and sans-emotion aftermath scene – cross dissolves and all?

Additionally, I’m also a hundred percent sure the film is going to generate a pivotal argument of it feeling frustratingly aimless time and again, which is exactly what I thought of as I got out of the cinemas. But as I got to think more about it – and when you look at the characters carefully – you’ll realize that perhaps, perhaps, this was what Joseph was deliberately going for; the characters, in all honesty, have ambition to make it big, but are really only drifting along the sidelines to make it big. Because how are you really going to show people being aimless unless you make the audience not just a simple voyeur, but also a part of the film?

No, the film isn’t a classic, as is already proven through the many plot conveniences. But hey, it isn’t really that bad either, all points considering; including (especially) the terrific soundtrack, curated and compiled to perfection by music supervisor Randall Poster (Boyhood). With a set of diverse additions, ranging from the aptly used remix of Years and Years’ major hit Desire, all the way to You Know You Like it, the soundtrack is not just perfect for the film and its thematic elements, but also – on a personal level – for the people who just want to listen to some really fun stuff on their way to work. What really takes the cake here, however, is Cole’s Memories, custom-composed and produced by Pyramid, bringing in most of the film’s pivotal moments through sound, and brought to screen successfully in one of the movie’s most important – and surprisingly goosebumps-giving – payoffs.

To Perform or Not to Perform

The Valley Boys

The Valley Boys

I think if there’s anyone I’d have to start with, I’d go with Wes Bentley, who totally nails his character here. There’s a certain sense of past hanging around his neck and shoulders, and for most part, due to his body language and commitment to the character, you can feel it. The very drivenness of Bentley to the role makes it more than just your standard alcoholic former star the character’s been written out to be. Coming in a hot second is Emily Ratajkowski, who I seriously thought wouldn’t cut it, despite her decent performance of the bit-role she pulled off in Gone Girl. I’ve gotta say though, she’s got confidence, charm and even throws in a certain set of subtleties here and there. What will really surprise the viewer is how natural and effortless her on-screen chemistry with Zac Efron really is; this earnestness alone makes most of this subplot an acceptable watch. Efron himself looks like he’s grown as an actor, a claim which will completely be validated by the mixture of anger, resentment, nervousness and excitement he’s able to exude in the finale – which is one of my personal favorite scenes in the film. Jonny Weston delivers an accurate, if slightly repetitive performance of his character, and a large portion of the audience is definitely bound to find his arc slightly unpredictable. Shiloh Fernandes is pleasing and harmless. Alex Shaffer is good fun to watch, although he isn’t given the screen-time he deserves – more as an actor than anything else. Jon Bernthal… is practically useless; all buildup and no conflict. This is a shame, considering he could have been used for so much more than this incredibly redundant role. The others, they come and go.

Worth it?

There’s a checklist narrative, quite a lot of generic characters and some weirdly contrived twists that don’t get anywhere. We cannot forget, however, that to balance it all, we’ve got the narrative spliced with a vibrant visual style and a sense of astute technical direction around it. The story might not be the best of this year by a mile and a half, but for all we know, Joseph knows clearly how he wants his story told. And that’s exactly what will make this film even moderately enjoyable.

But above all; above its strengths and weaknesses, We Are Your Friends gets one simple thing very right: the feel-good factor. This goes strongly in favor of the film, and has a huge potential of giving even the ones disdainful toward it a pleasant, if not lingering, aftertaste. This is precisely why it’s such a shame the movie isn’t more than just a standard Dickensian story of struggle and coming-of-age (anyone’s ever read Great Expectations?), as it did have a strong potential to be.

But in conclusion – and because I can’t really strongly recommend or rubbish this title on a whim – I suggest you try it of your own accord. You might come out liking it more than you think you would, or you might come out hating the film like you probably would have expected to. Still harmless though.

Consensus: 2.5 Stars
Comme ci, comme ça
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us


Rated

R

Starring

Zac Efron
Wes Bentley
Emily Ratajkowski
Alex Shaffer
John Bernthal

Written by

Richard Silverman
Max Joseph
Meaghan Oppenheimer

Directed by

Max Joseph


What to Expect

I’m not gonna lie; I can’t keep count of the number of times I’ve watched the first official trailer of We Are Your Friends.

And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it: although far, far behind the flawlessly edited and sound-designed trailers of Mad Max: Fury Road, the trailer for this apparently spunky-looking film have held a flair unlike any other mainstream rags-to-riches drama film – or any other mainstream film this year for that matter. Mix that with what’s possibly looking like one of the best genre-heavy compilation soundtracks, and the lay-viewer is definitely down for some more of the film.

But on a wider spectrum, what – besides Zac – does the film really give the viewer to expect? To that, there are two possible answers:

  • Pitching in parts of the storyline from what’s being seen in the trailers, one’s going to definitely notice the worn down to-do list the film has the potential of going for; or
  • Well, nothing – considering how otherwise unclear the trailers actually are (whether it is for a good or bad reason is yet to be seen), and how relatively new its team of writers here are too.

I guess that’s the aura the film’s going for anyway. I mean, you’ve got the host-creator-cinematographer of the ongoing television show Catfish bringing in his directorial debut with this film, which can either lead to the audience clearly getting catfished when they’re getting into the cinemas, or getting something pleasantly taken-aback surprising.

But I guess that’s what I went to find out, because for some rather odd reason I couldn’t possibly fathom, here I was, at the cinemas, ready to find out if the movie ended up reaching my surreally bloated expectations of the film.

Of course, they weren’t exactly all fulfilled. But there’s a slight twist to that.

What’s it About?

In search of that one track, struggling DJ Cole Carter’s (Zac Efron) on the lookout to his ticket to fame when he catches the eye of the otherwise cynical and depressed James Reed (Wes Bentley), the IT thing in the disc jockeying circle, who decides to mentor him to eventual success. Of course, there’s just one hitch: he falls in love with James’ assistant-girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski).

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

What's up? I'm Cole Carter.

What’s up? I’m Cole Carter.

Despite my obvious excitement of the film, my skepticism has always taken a bigger form within myself. And really, come to think of it, the lacking of surety is definitely warranted, considering quite a bunch of films don’t really fulfill any expectations per se. Club that with the overall negativity thrown at the film because of Zac Efron (what?), and you’re definitely wondering if you’re really going to like the film as much as you’d expect to.

But here’s the thing: there was a lot to like here. Joseph seems to have been extremely clear about how the film would look: raw, fast in movement and extremely bright, if visually ambitious in its own small-scale way. Making use of a lot of visual storytelling devices from different levels of filmmaking, the movie blends them in to ultimately form a deliciously snazzy looking product that leaves behind a set of things to like about it physically. Usage of fun motion graphics work in the form of text slates for three-fourths of the film and (possible?) rotoscoped animation during a rather impressively shot and executed scene where Cole and James are high out of their minds (and Cole’s face being the only live-action face for a few split seconds spliced here and there to give the viewers that hint of him having flashes of consciousness and sanity within) would probably be just some of the many, many storytelling cards having been well played. Add to that Short Term 12 fame cinematographer Brett Pawlak’s trademark raw direction of moving photography that plays around with lighting as deliciously as movement within shots.

Which is where I’d like to take a moment to talk about the camerawork of the film. The non-uniformity of a single type of camera might come off a bit too clunky for some, considering there are a lot of shots that definitely feel like they’ve been shot on a DSLR (the quick panning in some shots gave that away). This poses two differing arguments, one of which definitely centers around Joseph being particularly clear about the type of movie he’d want to see on-screen on a strictly visual level. But then there’s this other side; Joseph’s weirdly stuck to the inherently betray-able non-fiction-television-show format that he’s still otherwise a part of, and that he should have stuck to making a movie that looks like a movie more than anything else. Let us, however, take a moment to counter-question the latter thought by asking ourselves this: in this day and age, where the definition of movies are ever-broadening by the moment, should there be any fence around how a movie’s specifically supposed to look like?

Take a moment to think about that.

One interesting thing I seemed to note was Bentley’s James Reed and his (rather true) claim of the need of tracks to be less of royalty-free, (possibly) workstation provided samples in favor of organicity – a rather unhidden foreshadow to what unfolds next (ugh). And while this looks like just the tip of the iceberg to many, I could relate to that on a lot of levels, mainly because I’ve done some extremely mediocre tries at a sourced digital audio workstation in my computer. Moreover, I’ve seen with these up-and-coming DJs who – and unfortunately they may mean well, I guess – feel the need to tag, or group message everyone, desperately calling the world out to listen to their remixes. All you’re able to hear then within such tracks are sourced, pre-recorded loops and samples that don’t offer anything new or worthy to be heard even. Calling out on such bullshit (to a limited extent), the film also touches on quite a few aspects of electronic music production that the otherwise glamorous outlook on DJs don’t seem to show. There’s raw, unmixed music; there’s the staring at the computer and the aimless banging of the keyboard. There’s the lack of inspiration and then there’s (an albeit unnecessary) lot of it.

Party's a little dull, isn't it?

Party’s a little dull, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, the movie has dips (and crashes) aplenty. The process of music production is clunky and feels mostly like there’s nothing more to it than is displayed in the film, mostly at the cost of  the hardcore authenticity this definitely deserved. There are a lot of characters that seem like they’ve been seen in a ton of other shows and films – and the bonding between the Valley lot has definite potential to make the viewers feel like they’re watching an accidental prequel-spin-off of the Entourage franchise. Cole’s character, for example, is charming and easy-going, but in a rather generic, oh-I-know-he’s-that-kinda-guy sorta way. And then there’s the rest of the characters too: disillusioned former superstar takes in a struggler and mentors them, struggler has their own bunch of weirdos for friends (each having their own singular character-type), there’s overconfidence, shit gets real, and hello redemption! And considering the movie treads some very particular parts of the exhausted struggle-to-success checklist, it does tend to feel predictable in a lot of places you’d wish the movie seriously wasn’t. Within all of this formulaic writing there are moments of pondering one completely loses out on. A certain sub-plot featuring the Valley gang taking up a shitty day-job they don’t like to earn “some real lude”, literally and metaphorically. This particular subplot, although flat in execution, definitely gives out an aura of reliability to those in the audience who are consistently trapped in the fences of corporatization at the cost of their dreams.

But I think one of the biggest problems – out of all of them – is the underutilization of consequence after conflict. More than halfway through the film, there’s a major incident that happens, and although you’re made to see that it’s affected everyone, you can’t really see any consequence of that conflict. And believe you me, you’ll find a thousand more logical could-be consequences to the incident that will run through your head. yes, you touch lightly upon cause-and-effect, but does that warrant a singular, glorified and sans-emotion aftermath scene – cross dissolves and all?

Additionally, I’m also a hundred percent sure the film is going to generate a pivotal argument of it feeling frustratingly aimless time and again, which is exactly what I thought of as I got out of the cinemas. But as I got to think more about it – and when you look at the characters carefully – you’ll realize that perhaps, perhaps, this was what Joseph was deliberately going for; the characters, in all honesty, have ambition to make it big, but are really only drifting along the sidelines to make it big. Because how are you really going to show people being aimless unless you make the audience not just a simple voyeur, but also a part of the film?

No, the film isn’t a classic, as is already proven through the many plot conveniences. But hey, it isn’t really that bad either, all points considering; including (especially) the terrific soundtrack, curated and compiled to perfection by music supervisor Randall Poster (Boyhood). With a set of diverse additions, ranging from the aptly used remix of Years and Years’ major hit Desire, all the way to You Know You Like it, the soundtrack is not just perfect for the film and its thematic elements, but also – on a personal level – for the people who just want to listen to some really fun stuff on their way to work. What really takes the cake here, however, is Cole’s Memories, custom-composed and produced by Pyramid, bringing in most of the film’s pivotal moments through sound, and brought to screen successfully in one of the movie’s most important – and surprisingly goosebumps-giving – payoffs.

To Perform or Not to Perform

The Valley Boys

The Valley Boys

I think if there’s anyone I’d have to start with, I’d go with Wes Bentley, who totally nails his character here. There’s a certain sense of past hanging around his neck and shoulders, and for most part, due to his body language and commitment to the character, you can feel it. The very drivenness of Bentley to the role makes it more than just your standard alcoholic former star the character’s been written out to be. Coming in a hot second is Emily Ratajkowski, who I seriously thought wouldn’t cut it, despite her decent performance of the bit-role she pulled off in Gone Girl. I’ve gotta say though, she’s got confidence, charm and even throws in a certain set of subtleties here and there. What will really surprise the viewer is how natural and effortless her on-screen chemistry with Zac Efron really is; this earnestness alone makes most of this subplot an acceptable watch. Efron himself looks like he’s grown as an actor, a claim which will completely be validated by the mixture of anger, resentment, nervousness and excitement he’s able to exude in the finale – which is one of my personal favorite scenes in the film. Jonny Weston delivers an accurate, if slightly repetitive performance of his character, and a large portion of the audience is definitely bound to find his arc slightly unpredictable. Shiloh Fernandes is pleasing and harmless. Alex Shaffer is good fun to watch, although he isn’t given the screen-time he deserves – more as an actor than anything else. Jon Bernthal… is practically useless; all buildup and no conflict. This is a shame, considering he could have been used for so much more than this incredibly redundant role. The others, they come and go.

Worth it?

There’s a checklist narrative, quite a lot of generic characters and some weirdly contrived twists that don’t get anywhere. We cannot forget, however, that to balance it all, we’ve got the narrative spliced with a vibrant visual style and a sense of astute technical direction around it. The story might not be the best of this year by a mile and a half, but for all we know, Joseph knows clearly how he wants his story told. And that’s exactly what will make this film even moderately enjoyable.

But above all; above its strengths and weaknesses, We Are Your Friends gets one simple thing very right: the feel-good factor. This goes strongly in favor of the film, and has a huge potential of giving even the ones disdainful toward it a pleasant, if not lingering, aftertaste. This is precisely why it’s such a shame the movie isn’t more than just a standard Dickensian story of struggle and coming-of-age (anyone’s ever read Great Expectations?), as it did have a strong potential to be.

But in conclusion – and because I can’t really strongly recommend or rubbish this title on a whim – I suggest you try it of your own accord. You might come out liking it more than you think you would, or you might come out hating the film like you probably would have expected to. Still harmless though.

Consensus: 2.5 Stars
Comme ci, comme ça
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us

Cast Zac Efron
Wes Bentley
Emily Ratajkowski
Director Max Joseph
Consensus: 2.5 Stars
Comme ci, comme ça

What to Expect

#JustDeejayThings

#JustDeejayThings

I’m not gonna lie; I can’t keep count of the number of times I’ve watched the first official trailer of We Are Your Friends.

And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it: although far, far behind the flawlessly edited and sound-designed trailers of Mad Max: Fury Road, the trailer for this apparently spunky-looking film have held a flair unlike any other mainstream rags-to-riches drama film – or any other mainstream film this year for that matter. Mix that with what’s possibly looking like one of the best genre-heavy compilation soundtracks, and the lay-viewer is definitely down for some more of the film.

But on a wider spectrum, what – besides Zac – does the film really give the viewer to expect? To that, there are two possible answers:

  • Pitching in parts of the storyline from what’s being seen in the trailers, one’s going to definitely notice the worn down to-do list the film has the potential of going for; or
  • Well, nothing – considering how otherwise unclear the trailers actually are (whether it is for a good or bad reason is yet to be seen), and how relatively new its team of writers here are too.

I guess that’s the aura the film’s going for anyway. I mean, you’ve got the host-creator-cinematographer of the ongoing television show Catfish bringing in his directorial debut with this film, which can either lead to the audience clearly getting catfished when they’re getting into the cinemas, or getting something pleasantly taken-aback surprising.

But I guess that’s what I went to find out, because for some rather odd reason I couldn’t possibly fathom, here I was, at the cinemas, ready to find out if the movie ended up reaching my surreally bloated expectations of the film.

Of course, they weren’t exactly all fulfilled. But there’s a slight twist to that.

What’s it About?

In search of that one track, struggling DJ Cole Carter’s (Zac Efron) on the lookout to his ticket to fame when he catches the eye of the otherwise cynical and depressed James Reed (Wes Bentley), the IT thing in the disc jockeying circle, who decides to mentor him to eventual success. Of course, there’s just one hitch: he falls in love with James’ assistant-girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski).

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

What's up? I'm Cole Carter.

What’s up? I’m Cole Carter.

Despite my obvious excitement of the film, my skepticism has always taken a bigger form within myself. And really, come to think of it, the lacking of surety is definitely warranted, considering quite a bunch of films don’t really fulfill any expectations per se. Club that with the overall negativity thrown at the film because of Zac Efron (what?), and you’re definitely wondering if you’re really going to like the film as much as you’d expect to.

But here’s the thing: there was a lot to like here. Joseph seems to have been extremely clear about how the film would look: raw, fast in movement and extremely bright, if visually ambitious in its own small-scale way. Making use of a lot of visual storytelling devices from different levels of filmmaking, the movie blends them in to ultimately form a deliciously snazzy looking product that leaves behind a set of things to like about it physically. Usage of fun motion graphics work in the form of text slates for three-fourths of the film and (possible?) rotoscoped animation during a rather impressively shot and executed scene where Cole and James are high out of their minds (and Cole’s face being the only live-action face for a few split seconds spliced here and there to give the viewers that hint of him having flashes of consciousness and sanity within) would probably be just some of the many, many storytelling cards having been well played. Add to that Short Term 12 fame cinematographer Brett Pawlak’s trademark raw direction of moving photography that plays around with lighting as deliciously as movement within shots.

Which is where I’d like to take a moment to talk about the camerawork of the film. The non-uniformity of a single type of camera might come off a bit too clunky for some, considering there are a lot of shots that definitely feel like they’ve been shot on a DSLR (the quick panning in some shots gave that away). This poses two differing arguments, one of which definitely centers around Joseph being particularly clear about the type of movie he’d want to see on-screen on a strictly visual level. But then there’s this other side; Joseph’s weirdly stuck to the inherently betray-able non-fiction-television-show format that he’s still otherwise a part of, and that he should have stuck to making a movie that looks like a movie more than anything else. Let us, however, take a moment to counter-question the latter thought by asking ourselves this: in this day and age, where the definition of movies are ever-broadening by the moment, should there be any fence around how a movie’s specifically supposed to look like?

Take a moment to think about that.

One interesting thing I seemed to note was Bentley’s James Reed and his (rather true) claim of the need of tracks to be less of royalty-free, (possibly) workstation provided samples in favor of organicity – a rather unhidden foreshadow to what unfolds next (ugh). And while this looks like just the tip of the iceberg to many, I could relate to that on a lot of levels, mainly because I’ve done some extremely mediocre tries at a sourced digital audio workstation in my computer. Moreover, I’ve seen with these up-and-coming DJs who – and unfortunately they may mean well, I guess – feel the need to tag, or group message everyone, desperately calling the world out to listen to their remixes. All you’re able to hear then within such tracks are sourced, pre-recorded loops and samples that don’t offer anything new or worthy to be heard even. Calling out on such bullshit (to a limited extent), the film also touches on quite a few aspects of electronic music production that the otherwise glamorous outlook on DJs don’t seem to show. There’s raw, unmixed music; there’s the staring at the computer and the aimless banging of the keyboard. There’s the lack of inspiration and then there’s (an albeit unnecessary) lot of it.

Party's a little dull, isn't it?

Party’s a little dull, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, the movie has dips (and crashes) aplenty. The process of music production is clunky and feels mostly like there’s nothing more to it than is displayed in the film, mostly at the cost of  the hardcore authenticity this definitely deserved. There are a lot of characters that seem like they’ve been seen in a ton of other shows and films – and the bonding between the Valley lot has definite potential to make the viewers feel like they’re watching an accidental prequel-spin-off of the Entourage franchise. Cole’s character, for example, is charming and easy-going, but in a rather generic, oh-I-know-he’s-that-kinda-guy sorta way. And then there’s the rest of the characters too: disillusioned former superstar takes in a struggler and mentors them, struggler has their own bunch of weirdos for friends (each having their own singular character-type), there’s overconfidence, shit gets real, and hello redemption! And considering the movie treads some very particular parts of the exhausted struggle-to-success checklist, it does tend to feel predictable in a lot of places you’d wish the movie seriously wasn’t. Within all of this formulaic writing there are moments of pondering one completely loses out on. A certain sub-plot featuring the Valley gang taking up a shitty day-job they don’t like to earn “some real lude”, literally and metaphorically. This particular subplot, although flat in execution, definitely gives out an aura of reliability to those in the audience who are consistently trapped in the fences of corporatization at the cost of their dreams.

But I think one of the biggest problems – out of all of them – is the underutilization of consequence after conflict. More than halfway through the film, there’s a major incident that happens, and although you’re made to see that it’s affected everyone, you can’t really see any consequence of that conflict. And believe you me, you’ll find a thousand more logical could-be consequences to the incident that will run through your head. yes, you touch lightly upon cause-and-effect, but does that warrant a singular, glorified and sans-emotion aftermath scene – cross dissolves and all?

Additionally, I’m also a hundred percent sure the film is going to generate a pivotal argument of it feeling frustratingly aimless time and again, which is exactly what I thought of as I got out of the cinemas. But as I got to think more about it – and when you look at the characters carefully – you’ll realize that perhaps, perhaps, this was what Joseph was deliberately going for; the characters, in all honesty, have ambition to make it big, but are really only drifting along the sidelines to make it big. Because how are you really going to show people being aimless unless you make the audience not just a simple voyeur, but also a part of the film?

No, the film isn’t a classic, as is already proven through the many plot conveniences. But hey, it isn’t really that bad either, all points considering; including (especially) the terrific soundtrack, curated and compiled to perfection by music supervisor Randall Poster (Boyhood). With a set of diverse additions, ranging from the aptly used remix of Years and Years’ major hit Desire, all the way to You Know You Like it, the soundtrack is not just perfect for the film and its thematic elements, but also – on a personal level – for the people who just want to listen to some really fun stuff on their way to work. What really takes the cake here, however, is Cole’s Memories, custom-composed and produced by Pyramid, bringing in most of the film’s pivotal moments through sound, and brought to screen successfully in one of the movie’s most important – and surprisingly goosebumps-giving – payoffs.

To Perform or Not to Perform

The Valley Boys

The Valley Boys

I think if there’s anyone I’d have to start with, I’d go with Wes Bentley, who totally nails his character here. There’s a certain sense of past hanging around his neck and shoulders, and for most part, due to his body language and commitment to the character, you can feel it. The very drivenness of Bentley to the role makes it more than just your standard alcoholic former star the character’s been written out to be. Coming in a hot second is Emily Ratajkowski, who I seriously thought wouldn’t cut it, despite her decent performance of the bit-role she pulled off in Gone Girl. I’ve gotta say though, she’s got confidence, charm and even throws in a certain set of subtleties here and there. What will really surprise the viewer is how natural and effortless her on-screen chemistry with Zac Efron really is; this earnestness alone makes most of this subplot an acceptable watch. Efron himself looks like he’s grown as an actor, a claim which will completely be validated by the mixture of anger, resentment, nervousness and excitement he’s able to exude in the finale – which is one of my personal favorite scenes in the film. Jonny Weston delivers an accurate, if slightly repetitive performance of his character, and a large portion of the audience is definitely bound to find his arc slightly unpredictable. Shiloh Fernandes is pleasing and harmless. Alex Shaffer is good fun to watch, although he isn’t given the screen-time he deserves – more as an actor than anything else. Jon Bernthal… is practically useless; all buildup and no conflict. This is a shame, considering he could have been used for so much more than this incredibly redundant role. The others, they come and go.

Worth it?

There’s a checklist narrative, quite a lot of generic characters and some weirdly contrived twists that don’t get anywhere. We cannot forget, however, that to balance it all, we’ve got the narrative spliced with a vibrant visual style and a sense of astute technical direction around it. The story might not be the best of this year by a mile and a half, but for all we know, Joseph knows clearly how he wants his story told. And that’s exactly what will make this film even moderately enjoyable.

But above all; above its strengths and weaknesses, We Are Your Friends gets one simple thing very right: the feel-good factor. This goes strongly in favor of the film, and has a huge potential of giving even the ones disdainful toward it a pleasant, if not lingering, aftertaste. This is precisely why it’s such a shame the movie isn’t more than just a standard Dickensian story of struggle and coming-of-age (anyone’s ever read Great Expectations?), as it did have a strong potential to be.

But in conclusion – and because I can’t really strongly recommend or rubbish this title on a whim – I suggest you try it of your own accord. You might come out liking it more than you think you would, or you might come out hating the film like you probably would have expected to. Still harmless though.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

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Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

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Cast Zac Efron
Wes Bentley
Emily Ratajkowski
Director Max Joseph
Consensus: 2.5 Stars
Comme ci, comme ça

What to Expect

I’m not gonna lie; I can’t keep count of the number of times I’ve watched the first official trailer of We Are Your Friends.

And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it: although far, far behind the flawlessly edited and sound-designed trailers of Mad Max: Fury Road, the trailer for this apparently spunky-looking film have held a flair unlike any other mainstream rags-to-riches drama film – or any other mainstream film this year for that matter. Mix that with what’s possibly looking like one of the best genre-heavy compilation soundtracks, and the lay-viewer is definitely down for some more of the film.

But on a wider spectrum, what – besides Zac – does the film really give the viewer to expect? To that, there are two possible answers:

  • Pitching in parts of the storyline from what’s being seen in the trailers, one’s going to definitely notice the worn down to-do list the film has the potential of going for; or
  • Well, nothing – considering how otherwise unclear the trailers actually are (whether it is for a good or bad reason is yet to be seen), and how relatively new its team of writers here are too.

I guess that’s the aura the film’s going for anyway. I mean, you’ve got the host-creator-cinematographer of the ongoing television show Catfish bringing in his directorial debut with this film, which can either lead to the audience clearly getting catfished when they’re getting into the cinemas, or getting something pleasantly taken-aback surprising.

But I guess that’s what I went to find out, because for some rather odd reason I couldn’t possibly fathom, here I was, at the cinemas, ready to find out if the movie ended up reaching my surreally bloated expectations of the film.

Of course, they weren’t exactly all fulfilled. But there’s a slight twist to that.

What’s it About?

In search of that one track, struggling DJ Cole Carter’s (Zac Efron) on the lookout to his ticket to fame when he catches the eye of the otherwise cynical and depressed James Reed (Wes Bentley), the IT thing in the disc jockeying circle, who decides to mentor him to eventual success. Of course, there’s just one hitch: he falls in love with James’ assistant-girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski).

What's up? I'm Cole Carter.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Despite my obvious excitement of the film, my skepticism has always taken a bigger form within myself. And really, come to think of it, the lacking of surety is definitely warranted, considering quite a bunch of films don’t really fulfill any expectations per se. Club that with the overall negativity thrown at the film because of Zac Efron (what?), and you’re definitely wondering if you’re really going to like the film as much as you’d expect to.

But here’s the thing: there was a lot to like here. Joseph seems to have been extremely clear about how the film would look: raw, fast in movement and extremely bright, if visually ambitious in its own small-scale way. Making use of a lot of visual storytelling devices from different levels of filmmaking, the movie blends them in to ultimately form a deliciously snazzy looking product that leaves behind a set of things to like about it physically. Usage of fun motion graphics work in the form of text slates for three-fourths of the film and (possible?) rotoscoped animation during a rather impressively shot and executed scene where Cole and James are high out of their minds (and Cole’s face being the only live-action face for a few split seconds spliced here and there to give the viewers that hint of him having flashes of consciousness and sanity within) would probably be just some of the many, many storytelling cards having been well played. Add to that Short Term 12 fame cinematographer Brett Pawlak’s trademark raw direction of moving photography that plays around with lighting as deliciously as movement within shots.

Which is where I’d like to take a moment to talk about the camerawork of the film. The non-uniformity of a single type of camera might come off a bit too clunky for some, considering there are a lot of shots that definitely feel like they’ve been shot on a DSLR (the quick panning in some shots gave that away). This poses two differing arguments, one of which definitely centers around Joseph being particularly clear about the type of movie he’d want to see on-screen on a strictly visual level. But then there’s this other side; Joseph’s weirdly stuck to the inherently betray-able non-fiction-television-show format that he’s still otherwise a part of, and that he should have stuck to making a movie that looks like a movie more than anything else. Let us, however, take a moment to counter-question the latter thought by asking ourselves this: in this day and age, where the definition of movies are ever-broadening by the moment, should there be any fence around how a movie’s specifically supposed to look like?

Take a moment to think about that.

One interesting thing I seemed to note was Bentley’s James Reed and his (rather true) claim of the need of tracks to be less of royalty-free, (possibly) workstation provided samples in favor of organicity – a rather unhidden foreshadow to what unfolds next (ugh). And while this looks like just the tip of the iceberg to many, I could relate to that on a lot of levels, mainly because I’ve done some extremely mediocre tries at a sourced digital audio workstation in my computer. Moreover, I’ve seen with these up-and-coming DJs who – and unfortunately they may mean well, I guess – feel the need to tag, or group message everyone, desperately calling the world out to listen to their remixes. All you’re able to hear then within such tracks are sourced, pre-recorded loops and samples that don’t offer anything new or worthy to be heard even. Calling out on such bullshit (to a limited extent), the film also touches on quite a few aspects of electronic music production that the otherwise glamorous outlook on DJs don’t seem to show. There’s raw, unmixed music; there’s the staring at the computer and the aimless banging of the keyboard. There’s the lack of inspiration and then there’s (an albeit unnecessary) lot of it.

Party's a little dull, isn't it?

Unfortunately, the movie has dips (and crashes) aplenty. The process of music production is clunky and feels mostly like there’s nothing more to it than is displayed in the film, mostly at the cost of  the hardcore authenticity this definitely deserved. There are a lot of characters that seem like they’ve been seen in a ton of other shows and films – and the bonding between the Valley lot has definite potential to make the viewers feel like they’re watching an accidental prequel-spin-off of the Entourage franchise. Cole’s character, for example, is charming and easy-going, but in a rather generic, oh-I-know-he’s-that-kinda-guy sorta way. And then there’s the rest of the characters too: disillusioned former superstar takes in a struggler and mentors them, struggler has their own bunch of weirdos for friends (each having their own singular character-type), there’s overconfidence, shit gets real, and hello redemption! And considering the movie treads some very particular parts of the exhausted struggle-to-success checklist, it does tend to feel predictable in a lot of places you’d wish the movie seriously wasn’t. Within all of this formulaic writing there are moments of pondering one completely loses out on. A certain sub-plot featuring the Valley gang taking up a shitty day-job they don’t like to earn “some real lude”, literally and metaphorically. This particular subplot, although flat in execution, definitely gives out an aura of reliability to those in the audience who are consistently trapped in the fences of corporatization at the cost of their dreams.

But I think one of the biggest problems – out of all of them – is the underutilization of consequence after conflict. More than halfway through the film, there’s a major incident that happens, and although you’re made to see that it’s affected everyone, you can’t really see any consequence of that conflict. And believe you me, you’ll find a thousand more logical could-be consequences to the incident that will run through your head. yes, you touch lightly upon cause-and-effect, but does that warrant a singular, glorified and sans-emotion aftermath scene – cross dissolves and all?

Additionally, I’m also a hundred percent sure the film is going to generate a pivotal argument of it feeling frustratingly aimless time and again, which is exactly what I thought of as I got out of the cinemas. But as I got to think more about it – and when you look at the characters carefully – you’ll realize that perhaps, perhaps, this was what Joseph was deliberately going for; the characters, in all honesty, have ambition to make it big, but are really only drifting along the sidelines to make it big. Because how are you really going to show people being aimless unless you make the audience not just a simple voyeur, but also a part of the film?

No, the film isn’t a classic, as is already proven through the many plot conveniences. But hey, it isn’t really that bad either, all points considering; including (especially) the terrific soundtrack, curated and compiled to perfection by music supervisor Randall Poster (Boyhood). With a set of diverse additions, ranging from the aptly used remix of Years and Years’ major hit Desire, all the way to You Know You Like it, the soundtrack is not just perfect for the film and its thematic elements, but also – on a personal level – for the people who just want to listen to some really fun stuff on their way to work. What really takes the cake here, however, is Cole’s Memories, custom-composed and produced by Pyramid, bringing in most of the film’s pivotal moments through sound, and brought to screen successfully in one of the movie’s most important – and surprisingly goosebumps-giving – payoffs.

The Valley Boys

To Perform or Not to Perform

I think if there’s anyone I’d have to start with, I’d go with Wes Bentley, who totally nails his character here. There’s a certain sense of past hanging around his neck and shoulders, and for most part, due to his body language and commitment to the character, you can feel it. The very drivenness of Bentley to the role makes it more than just your standard alcoholic former star the character’s been written out to be. Coming in a hot second is Emily Ratajkowski, who I seriously thought wouldn’t cut it, despite her decent performance of the bit-role she pulled off in Gone Girl. I’ve gotta say though, she’s got confidence, charm and even throws in a certain set of subtleties here and there. What will really surprise the viewer is how natural and effortless her on-screen chemistry with Zac Efron really is; this earnestness alone makes most of this subplot an acceptable watch. Efron himself looks like he’s grown as an actor, a claim which will completely be validated by the mixture of anger, resentment, nervousness and excitement he’s able to exude in the finale – which is one of my personal favorite scenes in the film. Jonny Weston delivers an accurate, if slightly repetitive performance of his character, and a large portion of the audience is definitely bound to find his arc slightly unpredictable. Shiloh Fernandes is pleasing and harmless. Alex Shaffer is good fun to watch, although he isn’t given the screen-time he deserves – more as an actor than anything else. Jon Bernthal… is practically useless; all buildup and no conflict. This is a shame, considering he could have been used for so much more than this incredibly redundant role. The others, they come and go.

Worth it?

There’s a checklist narrative, quite a lot of generic characters and some weirdly contrived twists that don’t get anywhere. We cannot forget, however, that to balance it all, we’ve got the narrative spliced with a vibrant visual style and a sense of astute technical direction around it. The story might not be the best of this year by a mile and a half, but for all we know, Joseph knows clearly how he wants his story told. And that’s exactly what will make this film even moderately enjoyable.

But above all; above its strengths and weaknesses, We Are Your Friends gets one simple thing very right: the feel-good factor. This goes strongly in favor of the film, and has a huge potential of giving even the ones disdainful toward it a pleasant, if not lingering, aftertaste. This is precisely why it’s such a shame the movie isn’t more than just a standard Dickensian story of struggle and coming-of-age (anyone’s ever read Great Expectations?), as it did have a strong potential to be.

But in conclusion – and because I can’t really strongly recommend or rubbish this title on a whim – I suggest you try it of your own accord. You might come out liking it more than you think you would, or you might come out hating the film like you probably would have expected to. Still harmless though.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

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