Someone had to eventually make a movie set in the world of EDM. We Are Your Friends is that inexorable silver screen immortalization of the current music craze, but instead of being a simple cash-in, this fast-paced flick shares more in common with every fictional movie about an aspiring musician that preceded it – just swap out guitars for MacBooks with Logic Pro.
Zac Efron and a variety of tank tops stars as musclebound Valley guy DJ Cole Carter, an also-ran confined to the side room of a Los Angeles club every Thursday night where his bros sling molly. To ensure Efron’s starring role was given the proper scrutiny, I called upon real-life globetrotting and acclaimed DJ Ghislain Poirier for in-depth analysis. “It was how I expected it to be,” he said after the screening. “It was like Disney, only with boobs and drugs.”
Poirier also observed that the film is funny, and not always intentionally so. The no-frills scenes where Efron is in his room, headphones on, fiddling around on Logic Pro looked about right. “Making music looks boring,” Poirier pointed out. We both laughed when a “techno loop” was displayed on Efron’s screen, but it’s not inaccurate.
It’s when Efron tries to explain the act of DJing that the seams start to show. A scene from the trailer where the near imperceptible tick up from 126 bpm to 128 bpm is mythologized as some sort of DJ siren call has been rightly mocked online. “They’re right that 127-128 bpm is a good speed,” Poirier says. “Sixty bpm is considered the resting heart rate, so double that is considered natural, but it also depends on what time of day it is.”
Throughout the film, Efron repeats his notion that he’s one song away from fame and fortune. He encounters his fairy godfather in the form of scraggly souse James Reed, a DJ on the decline who sleepwalks his way through his headlining set at the club where Efron plies his trade. As an ornery artist past his prime, Reed is the most grounded and relatable character of the bunch. He also happens to possess two things Efron’s Carter desires: a home studio with a Wurlitzer and girlfriend/assistant Sophie, played by Emily Ratajkowski (of “Blurred Lines” video fame). Poirier felt Reed, played by Wes Bentley, was the most credible part of the movie. If you’re looking for It’s All Gone Pete Tong, Reed is the one guy in We Are Your Friends who wouldn’t have looked out of place in Ibiza.
Despite being a movie about DJing, We Are Your Friends has trouble with the build-up. Carter’s Valley bacchanalian bros are barely fleshed out, so when inevitable tragedy strikes the gang, there’s little emotional resonance. They all get morally reprehensible jobs, which further encourages them to follow their dreams of living on the good side of Los Angeles — it may not have the best sushi, but it does have the better clubs and afterparties. (Imperative, since last call is earlier there compared to Montreal.)
Carter’s big beat epiphany is a bit of a dud unless you’re into shameless product placement. It’s shot as if our hero is delivering a rousing speech to the festivalgoers below. Without giving away too much, Carter becomes emotionally overwhelmed during his performance. Because of that, I simply had to ask Poirier if he had ever cried during a DJ set or witnessed a colleague well up with tears. After a short pause, Poirier said: “No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Fighting, maybe.”
All kidding aside, Poirier astutely observed that although a fictional movie like Wild Style is considered an important document regarding early hip hop culture, it’s not perfectly aligned with reality. In time, We Are Your Friends could succeed as a film simply by outlasting our memories of the EDM era. ■
We Are Your Friends opens in theatres on Friday, Aug. 28. Watch the trailer here: