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New Release Review - WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS

An aspiring DJ befriends a superstar mentor, only to fall for his assistant/girlfriend.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Max Joseph

Starring: Emily Ratajkowski, Zac Efron, Jon Bernthal, Wes Bentley




"What saves the movie is the performance of Efron, who just may be the natural heir to Tom Cruise. Like all great movie stars, he has a knack of papering over the film's many cracks, forcing us to invest in his character in a way both his director and the script fail to."






Recently we got a very Gallic look at the world of DJing with the existential tale Eden. Now, with We Are Your Friends, the directorial debut of Max Joseph, we have a very Hollywood take on the subject. Where Eden played out in a series of pokey Parisian bedsits and claustrophobic basement clubs, We Are Your Friends unspools in the sun-drenched San Fernando Valley world of pool parties and mass outdoor raves.
Thrust into this culture is Cole (Zac Efron), an amiable twenty-something DJ tired of living in his friend's bedroom who becomes best buds with James Reed (Wes Bentley), a superstar DJ whose most creative years are behind him. Cole begins to spend more and more time at Reed's plush home in the hills of Hollywood, but it's not just his mentor's collection of vintage synths that holds an attraction; Cole has his eyes on Reed's beautiful young assistant-with-benefits, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski).
It may take place in a very modern milieu, but We Are Your Friends owes much to late '80s Hollywood. The relationship between Cole and Reed is half Tom Cruise-Bryan Brown from Cocktail, half Charlie Sheen-Michael Douglas from Wall Street. Reed seems to take Cole under his wing to both make and break him, dangling Sophie before the younger man like a particularly tempting sun-kissed carrot. The comparison gives the film too much credit, however, as it rarely stands on its own feet. Joseph's direction betrays his lack of experience, his innocent exuberance resulting in over-directed sequences and a painful lack of subtlety (at several points Joseph uses huge text overlays to hammer home ideas). An early drug trip sequence will have many viewers sinking into their seats in despair. A subplot involving Jon Bernthal's ruthless real estate broker could be cut from the film altogether. The one piece of genuine invention comes in the movie's climax, a clever riff on De Palma's Blow Out.
What saves the movie is the performance of Efron, who just may be the natural heir to Tom Cruise. Like all great movie stars, he has a knack of papering over the film's many cracks, forcing us to invest in his character in a way both his director and the script fail to. Looking more like a young Rob Lowe with each movie, you get the feeling he's slightly embarrassed by his looks, but rather than fighting his image like a Johnny Depp, he's making the most of his strengths. Sadly, his talent is wasted in mediocre movies like this.



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