The movie opens with a wide-angle shot of four friends staring at LA, laid out before them, while the raw vocals and disco-house bassline of Justice vs Simian’s We Are Your Friends bursts out. And then the movie races into its 98-minute long love affair with electronic dance music (EDM). It tells the story of Cole Carter (Zac Efron), an aspiring DJ in LA’s San Fernando Valley, and his three friends- Mason, Ollie and Squirrel; young twenty-somethings with big ambitions and no direction.
The four guys have a weekly gig at a local club where Mason is a promoter, wannabe actor Ollie sells drugs, Cole DJs, and Squirrel just hangs around. Living so close to LA that they can almost see the glittering lights of Hollywood, wealth and stardom seem just around the corner. But until that happens, they aimlessly loll about Mason’s empty pool, party, do drugs and sleep around. Cole’s luck starts to change when he befriends the older, established DJ, James Reed (Wes Bentley), who inexplicably decides to mentor him. Cole seems to think that all a DJ needs is “a laptop, some talent and one track” to become famous and churns out electronic beats he thinks could get him to Paris or Ibiza, much to James’ disgust. The veteran DJ teaches him to use everyday sounds to create more natural, emotional music. Here, the movie seems to split into two parts: Cole’s San Fernando world with his friends, and his friendship with James and his improvement as a DJ. James’ girlfriend, Sophie (the occasionally wooden, but charming Emily Ratajkowski) also plays Cole’s love interest, but other than a drug-induced Las Vegas hookup, the two don’t enjoy much more than a warm friendship.
The film boasts glimmers of insight into the lives of these young, restless and reckless adults, who haven’t fully grown up yet, but live in a time of instant gratification and insta-fame. Though “We Are Your Friends” is packaged to look like a comedy (it’s got the bright colors of an Instagram filter), it’s more of a drama. A coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of EDM.
Cole’s journey as a young adult and a DJ is offset by some of today’s most relevant electronic and electronic dance music artists, along with some classics of the genres. The movie seems edited to mirror its soundtrack (Seinabo Sey & Kygo’s Younger plays as Cole and Sophie talk about their futures), like several really cool music videos strung together by a story. The two divergent, yet parallel story lines are brought together by the soundtrack’s original track, Cole’s Memories, in the movie’s emotional final scene, where he plays snippets from his life at a festival.
Why You Should Watch this Movie:
We Are Your Friends replicates the sensory experience of attending a rave or a music festival, with all the implied good vibes and the spirit of ‘connected-ness’. The fantastic cinematography and slick editing gives us blasts of trippy party scenes, while Zac Efron gives us an understated, yet magnetic protagonist.