We Are Your Friends: Movie Review

Please welcome the first of what I hope are many entertaining posts from one of our new authors, Brett. -Andrew, the editor, Aug 27, 2015.

A couple of nights ago, I was offered pre-screening passes to go check out the new film “We Are Your Friends”. The film is the new Zac Efron feature about a 23-year old guy who is aspiring to be an electronic music producer and DJ. Now, I still am sort of uncertain what genre of movie this film is classified as, but it definitely earns its “R” rating for profanity, drug usage, and topless women. This was actually a movie that I had really been interested in seeing for reasons I’ll explain shortly, so I definitely jumped at the opportunity to get an advanced look at it. As I eagerly waited for the show to start, I pondered the direction of the movie, and what angle it would take with the rising electronic dance music (EDM) DJ/producer scene. Having personal history and involvement with the EDM scene as both fan and DJ/producer, I knew this movie would bring back a ton of memories, and show numerous aspects of the industry that I’d be able to connect with.

The movie begins with Cole (Efron) discussing the EDM scene, and all that it takes to become a “super-star DJ”. Immediately after, you get a glimpse of the reality of what it’s like to be an aspiring DJ. As Cole works on a new track he’s creating, you figure out that his close friend and acting agent/manager is on the phone with the local night club to negotiate Cole’s DJ set time and their promoting commissions. The remaining two friends in Cole’s group are introduced, and the four friends head to the nearby university to try and promote the show to girls and other students.

Fast-forward to the night of the show, and Cole heads out with his buddies to the club. Cole was slotted to play the middle set in the patio side room. All of a sudden, the glitz and glam of being a DJ get diminished, and the crew gets a harsh reality of the industry. Cole catches his lucky break near the end of the club night when he ends up befriending the headlining DJ.

Cole’s new DJ friend enables his career to progress to far beyond where he was going on his own. Still, simply DJ’ing alone isn’t funding his friends with enough money to grow their empire, so the crew all suits up and gets commissioned based jobs at a local financial real estate firm. Cole continues to improve and develop his new track with the feedback from his DJ friend, and ends up debuting the song at his festival gig at the end of the film.

False Impressions

After seeing the trailer for this movie a few times, I was sure that this movie was going to be about Cole making it big in the scene and playing major shows and festivals. What I was unsure of though was if there would be an actual story line and if there would be any substance to the content. Being a fairly marketed film with a decent known actor, I was sure I’d be surprised.

I really was not sure what the plot would be about, and how there would be an actual story associated with this kid turning into a DJ. Good thing I was wrong!

There was actually a surprising amount of plot and character development associated with this film. There were surprises that weren’t predictable, and there was definitely a climax to the movie. The movie still encapsulates the heart of EDM, but adds a relatable story to boot.

Connection to EDM Culture

It’s no surprise that this movie is about an EDM DJ. What’s not so obvious is the type of connection that there will be to the low-level every-day fan, as well as the aspiring DJ’s. Being a former club DJ and EDM fan, I found relationships to almost every angle that the movie presented. It was amazing how many accurate portrayals there were of the industry throughout the film.

Let’s start with drugs. Yes, drugs. Since this is a huge association with EDM from outsiders, this seems like an appropriate topic to discuss first. Yes, there are drugs in EDM. Fans take them, musicians take them. I think that goes without saying that every musical genre has had narcotic influence for both fans and artists. One particular drug probably comes to mind though when referring to EDM – Molly/ecstasy. This film definitely has more than enough ‘E’ influence to accommodate the surrounding stereotypes about raves and clubs with the drug.

Another large connection is showing the annoyance of what being a club promoter and local DJ is really like. Having come from a background where I did club promotions and DJ’ing for several years, this is definitely relatable and extremely accurate. It was definitely nice to see the film clearly show all these current aspiring DJ super-stars what the harsh reality of the EDM scene is all about for artists and non-fans.

Along the same lines as the annoyances of actually being a DJ, the movie shows the annoyances of actual music production. However, I will say that the shots of Cole hammering it out behind the computer working on his new jam were a bit excessive. Ok, we get it! He works hours and hours and is SUPER lucky to have a nice studio to work in. Nevertheless, it is a relatable parallel with the reality of the time involved into creating EDM masterpieces.

Are We Better Than This?

This phrase seems to be the subconscious theme throughout this movie. The line does come spoken several times in the movie as well as (*spoiler*) Cole’s track that he plays during his final festival gig. I can’t help but think about all the parallels and subtle connections to this line, as well as what the film is implying about the EDM lifestyle.

Neither Cole nor his friends have graduated college. They maintain the hope that they will hit it big in their musical industry careers, and have heavily banked on that. At the start of the movie, none of them had actual day jobs to pay the bills and such. They lived with one of the friends Dad’s, and drove another friends mom’s station wagon to the club events. Apparently none of the guys even have bank accounts, as there were multiple shots of Cole storing all of his cash in a shoebox underneath his bed (make sure you stick around after the credits and you’ll see why this shoebox becomes relevant).

There seemed to be no future for the guys, and no definite plan. The group gets jobs with a company dealing with “aiding” foreclosed homeowners. Despite the income, Cole questions the integrity of the business, and what it’s doing to the people that it is supposed to be helping. This issue combined with the stagnant EDM lifestyle is what sparks the question from Cole’s friend Squirrel, “Are we better than this?”

Conclusion

Overall I’d rate this movie about 6.5/10 stars. The film definitely kept my attention, and kept me engaged. Surprisingly there was a decent story line. I’m definitely glad that the whole movie was not about Cole being a super DJ and touring around to different shows. It was nice to have the movie be more centered on the challenges and negatives of the industry, vice the fame and fortune as people perceive it.

I may be a bit biased about this movie with my involvement in the EDM industry, but hopefully that’ll help serve to add credibility to my review. I would say though, that this is definitely a movie that you would be just fine seeing on Redbox or Netflix. There was nothing remotely spectacular about seeing it on a big screen. This does not mean I feel as if I wasted my 90 minutes. The movie in itself is very enjoyable and entertaining, but I’m hoping to do you a favor by recommending saving your theatre money and seeing this in your home.

I don’t really anticipate “We Are Your Friends” being a title in my DVD/Blue-Ray collection. I do get surprise gifts sometimes, so if that ends up being the case, then I will definitely watch this movie again. I will most likely watch it again on Netflix regardless, but had I not had screening passes to see this film, I wouldn’t be giving them my money at the box office.

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