We Are Your Friends: An Open Love Letter to The Power of Music [Review]

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I’m the wrong person to review this.  I don’t go to places that employ DJs, partly because I don’t dance but mostly because I don’t like trying to talk over the ambient music of a place.  (I love the sound of my own voice way too much for that.)  But despite not being able to relate, I found myself liking this movie.

We-Are-Your-Friends-Poster-Zac-EfronCaught between a forbidden romance and the expectations of his friends, aspiring DJ Cole Carter (Zac Efron) attempts to find the path in life that leads to fame and fortune.

We Are Your Friends is mostly a coming of age movie really, a maturation plot.  A young person gets tutelage from an older, wiser mentor and gradually finds his own way.  It’s also a little bit of a love story and very much an open love letter to the world of the DJ and the power of music.  If that sounds like it’s a lot, that’s because it is.  I got the feeling that this movie wasn’t exactly sure what it wanted to be most of the time.   It got there in the end, which is good – so many movies have exactly the opposite problem, starting strong and fizzling.  This movie meanders a bit but definitely does make good on its initial promises.  Plus there were some unexpectedly beautiful scenes scattered throughout.

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The acting was particularly strong.  Not just because there was a lot of shirtless men (and boy, were there ever – hello Jonny Weston!) but they really were convincing as the drug dealing, party crashing, sincere but directionless 20 somethings who haven’t really found themselves yet.  Their decisions made sense within the context of their lives and I found it easy to empathize.  You can tell good acting when you don’t notice the acting but instead find yourself thinking about the characters.  There was a lot of that in this film.

1432068339_emily-ratajkowski-zac-efron-zoomAbout the writing – scene writing textbooks will often tell you that a character should have an external, definable, measurable goal which comes to light about 25% of the way in.  I feel We Are Your Friends might have benefitted from that advice.  I was never quite sure what the main character, Cole, was after.  Sure he wanted to be a DJ but it was always a bit muddier than that.  I never got the sense of how close or far he was from actually getting whatever it was he was after.  Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but this may well have been deliberate, because all the other writing set pieces were there, quite gracefully woven into what became the main plot.

Thematically this is a movie about success.  How should one define success and how should one pursue it?  How much is too much to pay for success?  What does it look like when you have it?  How do you tell authentic success from inauthentic success?   What does success look like when you’re young verses when you’re older?  We Are Your Friends asks these questions and answers them as best anyone can in 96 minutes.

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