It’s not that the central characters in “We Are Your Friends” are despicable people. It’s just that they’re not particularly likable until the last twenty minutes, with the exception of a scrawny guy named Squirrel, and by then it’s too late. They’re flawed, as human beings are, and in the absence of anything else worthwhile (again, until the last twenty minutes), that doesn’t make for riveting moviegoing unless you’re a DJ or an aspiring DJ.
Max Joseph’s drama about millennial angst doesn’t seem to realize it’s about millennial angst until Zac Efron’s Cole finally struts his “real” stuff on stage at California’s Summerfest, his “are we ever going to be better than this?” a weighty crescendo with psychological implications for an entire generation. Unfortunately this climactic beat is preceded by an hour of formulaic plot beats wherein Cole and his friends rise and fall, literally and figuratively, at the hands of girls, drugs, and unscrupulous employers. Cole befriends a famous jockey and his hott assistant, who happens to be Emily Ratajkowski, and I’m sure you can guess what happens from there. Efron’s charisma is typically effortless, but his dough-eyed protagonist is both underwritten and inevitably foolish, falling for his mentor’s girlfriend like he’s predisposed to screwing up big opportunities. James Reed, the mentor in question, is his ticket to leaving Thursdays behind, because apparently Thursday sets are for losers. Wes Bentley rises from the dead to play the drunken Reed, a 40 year-old once-legend of the DJ world who’s allowed life to tear him down to the bottom of a whiskey glass. Predictably, he and Cole engage in fisticuffs at one point. Unpredictably, the scene ends with far more sympathy for the older man than the younger man, as Reed espouses the hard-nosed reality of life after thirty.
These moments are few and far between, however, with too much emphasis on the group’s wild, hard-partying adventures, further highlighting the idea that Joseph and his writers kind of, sort of want us to revel in all of this gyrating, molly-lickin’ fun. Granted, fatal consequences soon follow, waking them up to their silly lot in life, but until then it’s a long slog through a movie that feels like hanging out with a bunch of misguided assholes.