With friends like these…9/9/2015
“We Are Your Friends” is not a good movie. It is, however, not the worst thing I have ever seen, or even the worst thing I have seen this month. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to see how brutally it is being treated at the box office. Released a week ago, “We Are Your Friends” debuted at No. 13 in box office receipts, and its $400 per-screen gross stands as the fourth-worst wide-release opening in film history. Nobody is going to see this film.
A large part of the issue lies in the subject matter. Zac Ephron plays Cole Carter, an aspiring DJ from
the San Fernando Valley seeking his big break. And while it is impossible to argue that audiences are tired of seeing good-looking people succeed at things, “We Are Your Friends” takes this concept a step too far and shows us a story of good-looking people living (nearly) consequence-free lives.
Everything Cole and his fairly worthless group of friends undertake comes entirely too easily. They all get jobs telemarketing for a sleazy con artist and are immediate successes. Cole is looking for his big break into the electronic dance music (EDM) world, and so, of course, big-time DJ James (Wes Bentley, who’s better than this) sees him at a show and takes him under his wing. Later, when Cole repays James’ kindness by sleeping with his girlfriend, James is mad for a minute but still winds up inviting Cole to open for him at the biggest summer festival in the state. Of course.
As I said at the outset, this is not a particularly good movie. But, I wondered, is it a particularly good representation of what a DJ does? The film spends a lot of time, especially at the outset, deconstructing the ins and outs of creating an EDM song, and being a DJ in general. And so, in the interest of seeing if a seemingly irredeemable film could have some kind of silver lining, I took two local DJs — Jeanna Calvert and Brad Goldman — to see the film with me, then I picked their brains afterward.
“That was not at all what I was expecting,” Goldman said, sitting in the Jordan Creek food court. “I was really surprised by how dark it all was.”
This is another problem with “We Are Your Friends;” it takes something that is generally supposed to be fun (dance music) and sucks a lot of the joy out of it. The film is tedious for long stretches. Then there is the death of one of Cole’s friends that gets shoehorned into the end of the film, largely as a way to curry manufactured sympathy for a guy who just banged his mentor’s girlfriend.
“I appreciated them trying to show some production,” Calvert said. “I also appreciate that they tried to show him playing live. Too many people think of DJs as just pushing a button on a laptop. But there’s more to creating a song than that.”
“They got the theory behind what we do 100 percent right,” Goldman added. “The scene where Cole talks about how the sweet spot for getting people to dance all night is 128 beats per minute? I would have told you that same thing.”
Both Goldman and Calvert agreed that “We Are Your Friends” got a lot right when it comes to showing what it means to be a DJ. But both were equally perplexed when it came to trying to figure out who the film is trying to reach. Electronic dance music fans will most likely be turned off by the almost nihilistic way in which the film tells its story, while virtually everyone else will be turned off by all the EDM. That makes for a lose-lose scenario. CV