REVIEW: We Are Your Friends

10 07 2016

Zac Efron, at least until recently, was far more known for his impressive abs than his impressive acting. His actual body received more attention than his body of work. Beginning with 2014’s “Neighbors,” Efron turned his weapon of seduction into a weapon of self-deprecation, making his tabloid good looks the butt of the joke rather than an unironic selling point.

But what happens when Efron tries to be just … Zac Efron? Not a performance of himself, but just any other actor who wants to live and die by their work alone. As of publication, 2015’s “We Are Your Friends” is really the only film to date that allows Efron to be just any other performer. It never calls back to our cultural associations as a teen idol or sex symbol; in fact, the only time he appears shirtless appears incidentally and not as a deliberate courting of lust and/or jealousy.

As Cole, an aspiring EDM DJ awaiting his big break, Efron probably had to act more than ever to get into the mindset of the character. Talented though he may be, Cole dwells in mediocrity. He languishes in the San Fernando Valley, tucked away from the bright lights of Los Angeles, with three fiercely loyal but stagnant chums. (The illegitimate cousin of acting, pornography, thrived in this area during the ’70s.) Luckily for Cole, his medium of artistic expression rewards its participants on the basis of a single hit track.

Director Max Joseph sets up Cole as a sonic scientist behind the mix table before even establishing him as a creator or a person. His technique stems from an ability to physiologically affect his audience using principles of rhythm and frequency. It stands in marked contrast to the thespian in his friend group, who refers to himself as “a movie star” in a sea of actors. On a meta level, “We Are Your Friends” begs the question … is this calculated, methodical artist a reflection of the Efron that is? Or perhaps the one that could have been without the meteoric success of “High School Musical” that until recently hung like an albatross around his neck?

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REVIEW: Entourage

5 06 2015

In great works of narrative storytelling, an expertly crafted first line should set the tone for what lies ahead.  Whether “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” or “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice…,” these purposeful pieces of prose prepared readers properly.

The same goes for film, too.  And while the filmic brand extension of television’s “Entourage” is far from great, its creator Doug Ellin certainly knew how to kick off the movie.  As Vincent Chase’s posse approaches his supermodel-filled yacht off the coast of Ibiza, Johnny “Drama” giddily remarks, “I could jerk it before we get there!”

The whole movie resembles masturbation, a series of self-serving pleasures delivered on demand.  For an hour and 45 minutes, a pornographically extreme string of celebrity cameos decks out a contemporary “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”  Ellin reunites the entourage for an orgy of wealth, fame, and fully exposed breasts.  So, in essence, nothing changed from show to movie.

I am certainly not immune to the pleasures provided by such a film, but I have to acknowledge that such a masturbatory form of pleasure is juvenile, easy, and even a little lazy.  It’s hollow.  Ellin presents no compelling reason to resuscitate these dormant characters except to have them revel in the same debauched antics that occupied them for eight seasons (and are a mere Google search away for everyone else).

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