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Friday, September 4, 2015

We Are Your Friends 2015 * * 1/2 Stars

We Are Your FriendsDirector: Max Joseph
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski

We Are Your Friends (my latest review) is about prospective DJ Cole Carter. His friends as they say, are just secondary pawns. Liberating itself as part Tony Manero escapade, part 8 Mile, and sprinkled with a little fairy dust from The Wolf of Wall Street, this is a film that's somewhat inferior to everything just mentioned. That in my mind, secretes its place among the many releases in the last dash, August scrap heap.

Notwithstanding, the music here is completely bumpin, the sun shines intensely, and beautiful women seem to grow on trees. "Friends" with its plot threads subjugating as dangling loose ends, sticks to its persona as an L.A. snob story (not sob story). Every character is of a certain class, every scene is a party (full of sex, laced joints, and plenty of eurodance cuts), and everything the next day is a reckless hangover. The one saving grace: Two appealing actors by the names of Wes Bentley and Zac Efron. They give burying performances and in the world of music mixing, one of their characters is the mentor and the other is the student. Their kinship as veritable tug of war, kept me somewhat interested. Otherwise, things sort of end when they end. Oh and did I mention this vehicle has the audacity to hint at the hope of a sequel (by the time the final credits roll)? I kept thinking to myself, would that actually work?

Referencing the alleyways of San Fernando and masquerading Los Angeles as a modern day Munich (Ecstasy and flashing, neon lights can't lie), We Are Your Friends chronicles one Cole Carter (Efron). He's an aspiring deejay, a man who's got the music in him (as Kiki Dee would say). He can take one track, promote variations on said track, and have any inebriated partygoer dancing till the break of day. Here's the problem though: He doesn't make very much money via this craft. And to supplicate his own income, Carter dabbles in phony real estate dealings (he's also accompanied by three of his buddies who pose as a low rent entourage). A chance meeting with a spin doctor higher up on the food chain (DJ James Reed played by Wes Bentley), sets him straight. He can polish up his technique, wreck the turntables at Summerfest (an all-out musical fiesta), and get his sorry butt out of quote unquote, "the Valley". While all this is going on, he has a thing for Reed's saucy, pseudo-like girlfriend (Sophie played by Emily Ratajkowski).

Random things to look for when taking in a viewing of We Are Your Friends: 1. A visual palate akin to something out of a Vitamin C music video. 2. Lots of giddy, techno music riffs. I wanted to get up and dance but was afraid to do so (I probably could have being that I was the only one in the theater). 3. A swift education from the filmmakers on the aspects of BPM (an urban definition for "beats per minute"). 4. Finally, a scene in which a death occurs (at a party) in the form of a drug overdose. What I'm curious about is why the person handing out the pills didn't get busted. I mean it was his fricken house!

Anyway, in my lifetime I've never seen a cinematic endeavor pertaining to the art of DJing. And in truth, I never would have thought that it could be made into an interesting enough component to carry a film. But darn it if "Friends" doesn't take itself way too seriously. That was probably what was needed. Max Joseph (he shoots mostly documentaries and shorts) directs in a hyperkinetic style. He's flash with a little bit of stash. He uses every nickelodeon technique in the book including a PCP trip sequence as animation fantastique. When his lead player (Efron's Carter) is out on his own or his role in a two-part character study arises, the proceedings have a responsibility to them, a blossoming. When Carter trades dialogue with his nitwit buddies (in the form of actors Shiloh Fernandez, Alex Shaffer, and Jonny Weston), We Are Your Friends becomes immature and immaterial. Basically, Saturday Night Fever turns into Saturday Night Cleaver. Ugh!

In conclusion, we all know what the month of August means. It's that time when movies scrape the bottom of the barrel. In fairness, there have been some exceptions to the rule (The Sixth Sense comes to mind) and some hardcore stinkers to boot (1998's 54, ouch). We Are Your Friends fits somewhere in the middle. Bottom line: "Friends" shouldn't let "friends" pay ten bucks to see the movie I've just reviewed. "Friends" should just tell "friends" to wait for it on DVD.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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