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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Review: WAYF’s authentic characters shine, but everything else drops the ball

    “We Are Your Friends” didn’t drop the bass at the box office this past weekend, it dropped the ball. The electronic dance music-centric film had one of the worst wide-release openings of all-time, grossing almost $1.8 million on 2,333 screens.

    This Zac Efron passion project now occupies a position on the same list as a movie called “The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure.”

    I won’t say that the film’s performance at the box office is emblematic of its quality as a film, because that would place it in some truly atrocious company. The film has some authentic characters, which are desperately needed to counteract the uneven narrative and inauthentic depiction of the electronic dance music scene.

    Cole Carter (Efron) is an electronic music producer and DJ in San Fernando Valley, a region of California full of people who are proud, yet ruefully frustrated, that they haven’t made it big. Cole ekes out a living playing small clubs while his three friends struggle along and hustle right beside him.

    Cole’s fortunes stand to change, though, through a chance encounter with veteran producer and DJ James Reed (Wes Bentley). Cole doesn’t have an original song to his name, but James sees something in him. And Cole sees something (e.g. a gorgeous face and plunging neckline) in James’s assistant and girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski).

    The strength of this film lies in its strangely likeable cast of characters. These are all disenchanted people. Cole isn’t seeing success in his musical passion, Sophie’s a Stanford dropout and James is a washed-up musician. Their reality has fallen short of their visions of success, and that’s exactly why, to varying degrees, the audience gets behind them.

    Efron effectively underplays Cole; he has a confident presence that doesn’t require flourish. Bentley gives James that cocky, dismissive edge of an EDM bigwig that you just know has to be like some of the actual stars out there. Ratajkowski’s blemish-free, soft smile betrays Sophie’s sadness.

    In relation to its source material, the culture of EDM, things are hit-and-miss. The film doesn’t necessarily have any moral responsibility in how it depicts drugs, but it’s still pleasing to see they used various shades of gray. There’s the psychedelic, when Cole accidentally smokes PCP and a party turns into a living painting; there’s the positive, when Cole and Sophie have a loving, euphoric roll on Molly throughout Las Vegas; and there’s the negative, when one of Cole’s friends overdoses.

    However, it dubiously depicts Cole’s progression as an artist. We’re told by Reed that he lacks an original sound and that he’s just mimicking everyone else. The solution the film sets forth is that Cole just isn’t listening to the world around him. So once Cole starts recording the sounds that he notices, like the metallic spin of a coin or the ominous whir of helicopter blades, he becomes a better artist. It sort of makes sense, but when you think about it, it really doesn’t. Artists get better through practice, not epiphanies.

    So, what does Cole do with all of those sounds? He creates that one, original track that serves as an anthem to the frustrated youth. And you know what? That song is a success with the festival audience he plays it for, and it’s a success in the theater. It’s muddled and energetic, and undeniably has its appeal, making it a very appropriate way to end “We Are Your Friends.”


    Follow Alex Guyton on Twitter.

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