DIR: Max Joseph • WRI: John Green • PRO: Tim Bevan, Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner • DOP: Brett Pawlak • ED: Terel Gibson • DES: Maya Sigel • MUS: Fat Segal • CAST: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Jonny Weston
Tales of millennials (*shudder*) and their struggle for self-realisation seems to be the dominate narrative of many up-and-coming filmmakers, and may well be for the foreseeable future. In his feature-length directorial debut, Max Joseph (of MTV’s Catfish fame) examines the struggles of a very particular type of ‘youth’- namely, the ridiculously good-looking, LA type. Namely, the ‘young and naïve, but passionate, musician/actor/dancer trying to make it in the big bad entertainment industry’ type. In other words, we’ve seen this story a million times before.
To give Joseph some credit, the silver-haired director does manage to bring a distinct ‘2015ish’ flavour to the film. The problem, of course, with setting a story so firmly in a specific moment of time is that, in a year from now, everything in this film will seem dated. Or it could become a snapshot of a particular cultural era for the archives, but, nah, this film is much too lacking in depth for that.
Our protagonist, Cole (Zac Efron), is an aspiring DJ who spends his days lazing with friends and nights promoting a nightclub in the hope of earning some money and/or time in the DJ booth. Cole and company dream of stardom and raking in the big bucks but, with little real motivation, the group seems doomed to spend their rest of their lives living in their parent’s pool-houses. That is until a chance encounter leads Cole into the path of famed, but washed-out, DJ Paul Reed (Wes Bentley). Suddenly finding himself with a mentor, Cole hesitantly begins to take the first steps towards developing his own original sound. Things get complicated however when our headphone-wearing leading-man finds himself falling for Reed’s girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), …and we all know where it goes from there.
This is a vapid film that is aimed mostly at a teenage audience. It has a lot of problems, the main issues revolving around tone and pacing. Joseph’s style seems to shift from scene to scene, leaving the audience with a distinct lack of consistency. The commentary offered by the film on the music industry seems a little too simplified to be taken seriously. Also, for its 96-minute run, it at times seems arduously long. And yet… the film isn’t a complete disaster. For one, solid performances are turned out by all cast members. Their characters may be lacking in substance, but we do believe that they genuinely are that shallow- intentionally or not. For his part, Joseph does attempt to touch on heavier issues- such as drugs, relationships, and personal stagnation- but he’s just not quite there yet as a director to handle these concepts effectively. But at least he tries. There can be no doubt that effort was indeed put into this film, which is more than can be said for other works of this ilk. Throughout the film there are genuinely beautifully shot scenes, and the cinematography is gorgeous.
We Are Your Friends is a film very much of its time that wants to be taken seriously, but succeeds only in serving as a passing amusement. But if you are looking for just that, something to pass the time on an otherwise quiet Sunday evening, you could do far worse than this film.
16 (See IFCO for details)