Cole Carters (Efron) dreams of becoming a famous DJ takes a step closer to reality when he is taken under the wing of a superstar (Bentley).
If Hollywood decided to remake Mia Hansen-Løve’s dreamy Eden, but opted to ‘fix’ the narrative structure, character arcs and Nouvelle Vague noodling, the result might look a lot like We Are Your Friends. Our own Working Title may be at the controls, but the tracks laid down by the script are so traditional, it might as well be a clubland spin on musical perennial A Star Is Born.
After a memorable turn in Bad Neighbours, Zac Efron takes centre stage as 23 year-old Cole Carter, an aspiring DJ who lives with three friends “on the wrong side of the Hollywood Hills”, tirelessly promoting college club nights while dreaming of bigger things. Cole gets a massive break when, for no adequately explained reason, he is taken under the wing of ageing superstar DJ James Reed (finally, a decent role for Wes Bentley), who generously lends Cole his state-of-the-art studio, and unwisely encourages him to hang out with girlfriend-slash-assistant Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski). Cole recognises James’ patronage as the life-changing opportunity that could turn his dreams into reality — if only he can keep his hands on the (virtual) turntables and off Sophie. You can guess how that goes.
Co-written and directed by first-timer Max Joseph (Catfish: The TV Show), and named after the club track by Justice Vs Simian, We Are Your Friends is at its best when it’s focused on the core triumvirate of Efron, Ratajkowski and Bentley, and at its most authentic when talking about the music. Less convincing is the clunky ‘adventures in real estate’ subplot that cock-blocks the dramatic potential of Cole’s relationship with his friends, one of whom is lost to a coyly unexplained death, for no better reason than Cole needs a Moment Of Truth at the third-act break.
But for these bum notes, We Are Your Friends might have become the next big club-culture movie. Instead, it feels as fake as the digital decks that double for turntables for Oakenfold wannabes everywhere.
Zac Efron makes a convincing bid for movie stardom — and Ratajkowski proves she’s more than just a pretty face — in this flawed but fitfully entertaining film, even if it all goes a bit Pete Tong at the end.