Typically, EDM is not my preferred cup of tea, but that didn’t stop me from jumping into (and kind of enjoying) the mildly entertaining We Are Your Friends, out this Friday. At its centre is Zac Efron (Neighbors) as Cole Carter ( I like to imagine CoCa Cola as his eventual stage name), an early twenties aspiring DJ just trying to hustle his way out of the club life and into bigger places where his music will be celebrated. A chance meeting with world-renowned James Reed (Wes Bentley, The Hunger Games) and his girlfriend/assistant Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski, Gone Girl) throws Cole into a world of BPM possibility, while his actual reality begins to spiral.
This is the premise for many stories about the come-up, streamlined into a Step Up-esque story for another generation by director Max Joseph (Co-host and producer on Catfish); the only difference between those stories is that Cole’s objective is to create one defining song that will push him into everyone’s Soundcloud’s playlists, but it isn’t a hearty enough reason to drive the movie in any particular direction. When changes drop and tragedy strikes, there is a direct impact on the characters, but little aftershock for the actual plot.
Despite that missing element needed to tie Joseph’s direction together, the tale surrounding the kids who look to transform their creative expressions from a passion into a lifestyle and from a lifestyle into a career feels familiar. The romanticized experiences of drugs, cool parties and festival frolicking are offset by realities – overdoses, blue collared work and loss all have their place in this realm, too – indicating at the very least an attempt at a balanced picture of this very common pursuit. The accuracy extends all the way into the conclusion, where the film’s relatively slow journey ends in a moment right before the bass drops, on the precipice of something exciting. Where Joseph fails is in his attempt to make something that is sleek and tempting feel equally deep and inspiring is that lack of plot ribbon to tie it all together.
If you’re trying to figure out what it is that makes this movie tick and why it’s oddly enjoyable despite such annoyances, maybe look to Cole’s (literally) animated explanation of the perfect BPM about half-way through the movie. Break it down to a couple of fundamental elements; a mix of a deadly attractive cast, one knock-out soundtrack, a convincing performance of jerk meets mentor from Bentley and some good ol’ fashioned young fun is just enough to get your head nodding, one mediocre beat at a time.