Escape from [insert name of fictional Asian city here]
You’ll Never Be Alone Again!
If you did not find yourself singing along when you read the above sentence, or are not aware of how that sentence links to the film’s title, this may not be the film for you. (Answer – it’s the central lyric to Justice Vs Simian’s 2008 hit ‘We Are Your Friends‘) The film is aimed squarely at Generation Y, bringing remnants of a traditional coming-of-age narrative together with modernity and scoring it with electronica. And it really works. Surprisingly so. It’s released at the perfect time, at the tail end of the summer, as the film reflects the comedown and bittersweetness this time of year brings. It’s the last party of the summer, are you in?
Cole (Zac Efron) is a 23-year old struggling DJ who lives in the San Fernando valley, the urbanised area on the other side of the Hollywood Hills, and dreams of becoming a world-renowned record producer. Cole’s three closest friends also dream of something big, something more than the lot they have been handed. Thursday night socials are the highlight of their week. The foursome spend the day hustling a crowd for nightclub, then reap the small rewards in the night with free drinks, the attention of women and the possibility of a small sum. During these night’s Cole gets to perform a set to warm-up the crowd for the headline act. It’s the only time he really feels alive. One night that headline act is James (Wes Bentley), a celebrity DJ who is losing the battles against his demons. He fears that he has lost his talent and relies on alcohol to push such thoughts away. His assistant and girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski) loves him but is hurt to see him struggle in this way. James quickly becomes Cole’s mentor, becoming a big part of his life. So does Sophie, who Cole forms a connection with, which will force him into making difficult decisions about his future.
Based on the trailers for We Are Your Friends it would have been easy to rule it out as an Entourage for the millennials. Cole’s crew is made up of similar archetypes as Entourage– the ‘hot head’, the ‘hustler’, the ‘brains’ and with Cole as the ‘talent’. Yet several aspects of the film prevent it from deserving this status, and in fact elevate it above it. Specifically the direction and cinematography. Directed and co-written by Max Joseph (one of the co-hosts of MTV’s Catfish) the film’s tone echoes the world it is set in: the humidity of LA, the tense uncertainty of their environment and the sheer unadulterated escapist joy that music can bring. Joseph makes some unique choices along the way with some stand-out sequences including the blend of live action and animation at the art gallery after-party and Cole’s scientific explanation of how to truly get the party started. It’s the twist 2/3 into the film, along with a sleazy sub-plot, that brings the film back to Earth and makes this a far more realistic tale than the overindulgence and consumerist pornography of Entourage. We Are Your Friends is the ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ to the ‘Holiday’ of Entourage; this is a life in which the party isn’t always worth the resulting hangover.
Zac Efron excels in his role as lead. He brings an engaging mix of ambition and drive, retaining our sympathies throughout each difficult decision. This film marks Emily Ratajkowski’s leading role (after rising to prominence in the music video for ‘Blurred Lines’) and she’s reasonably good with the material she has been given, stuck in a relationship in which she must watch her partner indulging in excess whilst having feelings for Cole. However in this film she does have an annoying habit of pouting after each utterance, and spends most of the film frowning. This could be an attempt at characterisation, but there could have been more done with the role of the enchanting muse.
The film, like it’s soundtrack, is pulsive and hypnotic. Watch this if you want to prolong your Summer for that little bit longer, or if you want to see a genuine feel-good movie.