We Are Your Friends review – music drama marks return to form for Zac Efron

Josh Rogan And Zac Efron

This Eden-lite affair may not be the Saturday Night Feverfor the 21st century for which director/co-writer Max Joseph was aiming, but it certainly marks a return to intriguing form for Zac Efron after the patience-testing trials of That Awkward Moment and Bad Neighbours.

Efron plays Cole, a wannabe DJ holed up in the sun-drenched wasteland of the Valley, gazing across the hills in search of a better tomorrow. By day he holds down a miserable job cold-calling lonely mortgage defaulters; by night he twiddles knobs in the supremely uncinematic manner of the modern mixmaster – a man with a laptop and a pair of headphones. But when a chance encounter with Wes Bentley’s spiky superstar opens his eyes to wider horizons, Cole finds himself torn between old loyalties and new frontiers. The story is paper-thin, but Joseph’s music choices are astute and his eye for glazed, heady dystopias (from San Fernando to Las Vegas) keen.

There’s something of the melancholia of Boogie Nights in these hard-partying vistas, and though there may be little here to love, there is plenty to like. Bentley gives it some well-practised slime as Cole’s mentor/nemesis, but it’s Efron who holds it all together, proving once again that he’s a smarter, more adventurous performer than his lazy detractors dare to allow.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Mark Kermode, Observer film critic, for The Observer on Sunday 30th August 2015 07.59 Europe/London

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