Sometimes you walk out of a movie exasperated that only one female character had more than three speaking lines and played something other than an object of derision or sex.
Then, you think about it some more and realize you can't recall one character of color - not even a token black friend - saying anything.
That is We Are Your Friends.
A scrappy kid (Zac Efron, who showed so much promise in Neighbors) tries to make it in the world of EDM - electronic dance music, for those not up on their Skrillex.
It doesn't start out half-bad. Max Joseph, the cohost of MTV's reality show Catfish, begins the film with enough visual flair, as when he uses a rotoscope-like technique to illustrate a PCP trip. (Drug use is constant and casual throughout the film - not a criticism so much as an observation.) But as soon as those flights of fancy end (and they end quickly), We Are Your Friends becomes a slog.
Efron is Cole, a kid from the Valley who has decided the road to music superstardom is "one track." He hangs out with a group of bros - complete with the underlying homoeroticism that entails - who have dreams of something bigger, but don't do much to get there.
Cole befriends famed DJ James Reed (Wes Bentley), who takes him under his wing and introduces him to his assistant/girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski, Gone Girl and Robin Thicke's infamous "Blurred Lines" video). Cole is immediately smitten.
Reed mentors Cole, constantly spewing advice about both music and life, the latter of which he has started to sleepwalk through and the former of which he is quite bad at.
Reed makes fun of Cole for his derivative music, which sounds like too many other artists. That's one of the problems in We Are Your Friends. It's the classic struggling-artist story, just set to a different beat. But is it about leaving behind those you grew up with? Is it about the brotherhood among friends? Or is about the mentor-mentee artistic relationship? The movie never really figures that out. And the latter half is a mess because of it.
But the real question is: Who is this movie for? Is it aimed at women who will be drawn to Efron, with his cut body and brow furrowed just-so in order to feign depth? It's hard to justify that when the movie seems to have no respect for women at all. Poor Sophie starts out as an independent-minded creature who is quickly turned into both damsel in distress and romantic pawn. (The other women of note mainly request that Cole spin Beyonce's "Drunk in Love," or are vehicles of male sexual pleasure.)
Is it for young white men, who will be drawn to the camaraderie among bros? How can it be, when that demographic has proven that they don't go to the movies anymore? See: Entourage.
The summer box office has proven that when movie companies stopped being obsessed with courting young, white men, people actually showed up to the theater. (Hello, Trainwreck, Pitch Perfect 2, Spy, Straight Outta Compton). Perhaps it's for the best that We Are Your Friends doesn't try to appeal to anyone outside its stars' own kind. Fewer people will have to see it.