There is a real problem bring dance music films to the screen. By its nature it is a medium that doesn’t involve watching someone manipulating a console and decks. In the same way that movies involving Hacking or computer programming can be dull to watch, the film makers have to come up with creative ways of showing the ‘action’. We are your friends has a couple of nice stylistic touches which make the experience more interesting. The question is, does it make it a good film?
Cole (Zac Efron) has ambitions beyond his current status. He is an up and coming DJ that is trying to get the break that will boost his career. He lives in the San Fernando Valley with his three friends. They spend their time promoting at a local club and selling a little recreational narcotics. A chance meeting with a top DJ, James (Wes Bentley ) leads to Cole being taken under the wing of the more experienced man. Cole is now faced with a difficult path between as he tries to steer his future while stuck between the demands of his friends and the attraction to Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), the girlfriend of James.
First the good points. Zac Efron is maturing into a fine actor and is quickly adapting his acting style. With the teen and Disney films he was called upon to be a certain type of actor which fits into the corporate mould. Now he is freer to actually develop his own style. He is convincing as Cole. His acting style here is toned right down to the point of the character being understated. There is no need for him to be overly expressive as the supporting characters are all capable of handling that aspect of the film.
The director, Max Joseph, uses a good deal of invention in trying to make the film visually appealing. He uses different techniques to keep you watching. The scene where Cole explains to Sophie how he makes people dance is a case in point. It is laid out like a scientific technique video with graphics, medical imagery and rapid cuts, all over the music, to emphasise the point that Cole is making.
Where the film fails is in the story and characters. The story is a generic coming of age tale that we have seen too many times before. The characters are a bit like that as well. The superstar DJ character James is the typical over the hill mentor character. He drinks, take drugs and is generally coasting through life. It’s all a bit clichéd and you know that by helping Cole he will find some sort of spark to spur him on. Cole’s friends can be similarly categorised as the jock, the dealer and the sensitive one. So we get a good idea as to their story arcs and how they inform the progression of Cole’s arc.
Overall, an entertaining look at DJ culture which just about overcomes the obviousness of the storyline.