CULTURE: “We Are Your Friends” Puts Dance Music on the Backburner

We Are Your Friends is not a movie about #EDM or the culture. To call it that would discount the emotional impact it will have on the beleaguered Millenials in the work-force in the United States.

Sure – at its core there’s a certain respect to the power of dance music; anyone who’s seen the trailer or paid attention to any of the film’s marketing in the past few weeks can tell you that. There’s a DJ, he wants to make it big, he finds his sound, and he’s semi-savvy about the business going into it (even going as far as a cheesy monologue about how to successfully work a crowd while – you guessed it – he’s working a crowd). There are also interludes that pay homage to the hurdles young people trying to make it in the game have to jump over such as playing in a side room and being faced with the mindless song requests every young white girl wants to hear.

At its heart is a more sincere story about being young in America and wanting to follow your aspirations in a culture that’s becoming more and more dominated by the struggle to find work. It’s a harsh reality that the 20-somethings in We Are Your Friends constantly face and it mirrors the situation that many young people are experiencing when they get out of college. Granted – the opportunities, in this instance, are a little skewed considering the ragtag group is mainly comprised of middle-class, white, young men. The one female character, the instantly likable Emily Ratajkowski, serves as the film’s love interest in a very predictable love triangle scenario between Efron and Wes Bentley as the scene stealing, washed up DJ from Generation X. And this, unfortunately, whitewashes much of the diversity and cultural heritage of dance music which is a crying shame given that it’s ripe material to pull from creatively. So, with that in mind, the film is pretty vanilla, but it serves the purpose the film is out to achieve: basic relatability for the young masses.

As for the rest of the film, however, there’s an unfortunate misuse of creativity which causes the film to collapse under its own weight. We receive glimmers of greatness sprinkled throughout mainly due to the film’s editing which, in a lot of ways, play out like extended music video sequences. One of these segways is a scene where our protagonist, Cole, played with boyish ease by Zac Efron, is given PCP and we witness his trip as the film maneuvers into animated ecstasy compounded with lush house rhythms. These saving graces give the film some buoyancy during its 1 hour and 40 minute runtime, as the melodrama becomes more and more predictable, but it’s not enough to make the film a supremely memorable feat of filmmaking even with its stellar attempt to try and pay off the audience with the film’s fist-pumping climax. An enjoyable movie to pass the time? Perhaps. Memorable? Not so much.

Again, where this movie succeeds is the building of the reality within the construct of the film. Young people walking into this movie are going to leave empowered to think for themselves and to do the things they want to do especially those who feel like their day-to-day grind isn’t worth the heartache of not being able to pursue their dreams.

In other words, be ready for a lot more 20-something DJs with a laptop, one song, and hopes to defy all odds.