The definitive (and only) DJ movie of a generation – “We are Your Friends” review

Real Three Stars

Devin King | Staff Reporter
Published August 21, 2015; 10:00 a.m

The story of a DJ is a much harder one to tell than most would think. Bringing all the baggage that a DJ goes through to a relatable level can be a daunting task, but “We Are Your Friends” is able to deliver on this promise. It may not exactly be a home run, in fact there are some stumbles that are made here and there, but something truly unique is made a as a result.

Zac Efron plays Cole Carter, a young DJ that is trying to make it as a professional in the electronic music scene. Carter is almost always in the company of his close friends, being Squirrel (Alex Shaffer), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) and Mason (Jonny Weston). The group works mediocre job after mediocre job and hope to one day fulfill their individual dreams.

The story is pretty simple but it never over or undermines itself. Carter explains throughout the story what it takes to be an exceptional DJ, such as explaining how narrowing on a fast heartrate with synchronizing beats can liven up a crowd. The explanations are simple but get the point across. Little pieces are laid out here and there on what to do and what not to as a DJ help the audience appreciate scenes in which Carter is creating music, which may have otherwise came off as generic party scenes.

Carter eventually meets James Reed (Wes Bentley), a very famous DJ who becomes his mentor. As Carter improves his DJing skills, Carter and Reed’s girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski) begin to develop an affair under his nose.

“We Are Your Friends” sets out to tell the compelling uprising of a DJ, which really has not been done before in cinema. It does this successfully by designing the different aspects of a DJ’s job, such as thrilling a crowd and creating complicated music, around a compelling plot while not losing its focus. Its other subplots, such as Carter’s relationship with his friends and Sophie, can take surprisingly long breaks in the background. This almost begs the question of why having them in the first place, however, the characters are fleshed out just enough to justify still having them take up precious screen time.

On a surface level, Carter comes off as a stereotypical young adult, however, Efron does help improve on the character by delivering his lines with comedic elements that work. The same can go for Fernandez and Weston who give similar performances. Unfortunately, Shafer, Ratajkowski and Bentley are all very limited in character, which is mostly the script’s problem rather than the actors. They are not bad characters per se, but it is more that the characters seem to do whatever the plot needs them to do at the time.

With a bunch of night club scenes and being about DJing, it should come as no surprise that there are quite a bit of scenes filled with electronic music and dancing rather than dialogue. Luckily most of these scenes do not overstay their welcome and commentate on Carter’s progress as a DJ. They also provide the film with some great aesthetics to add to the relatively “okay” cinematography. The sound design is also done really well, but besides some incredible music to be found in the climax, there are not too many tracks I can remember from the film.

“We Are Your Friends” is coincidentally similar to its main protagonist Carter. It rises above being the overly generic modern product that it comes off as by accomplishing something great using everything it’s made of. The film could use some help in the intelligence department since it annoyingly and unnecessarily spells out its message in its ending, but it is a successful film that tells the story of something that is rarely told, if at all.

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