It was by happenstance, really, that I noticed the connection between the new Zac Efron vehicle, the EDM drama We Are Your Friends, and Saturday Night Fever. And, really, it shouldn’t have been all that difficult to spot since Efron has been comparing the EDM scene in We Are Your Friends to the way disco was portrayed in Saturday Night Fever. “It’s fantastic that we were able to integrate electronic music into what is a really universal film,” said Efron. “It’s sort of like what disco was in Saturday Night Fever. That movie really is about a guy transitioning from a certain place in his life and becoming an adult and the backdrop is disco, so this is our generation’s version and it’s electronic music.”
And that’s a fine comparison and all (it goes without saying, but I will anyway, that Fever is obviously a classic; We Are Your Friends will not be a classic), but when you watch both movies back-to-back, as I did accidentally — when Fever happened to be on television the day after I saw We Are Your Friends — it really becomes apparent just how much the new film leans on John Badham’s 1977 classic.
(Warning: there will be We Are Your Friends spoilers ahead.)
In We Are Your Friends, Efron plays Cole, an up and coming EDM DJ stuck in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, hanging out at a local club named Social with his three best friends. In Saturday Night Fever, Tony (John Travolta) and his four buddies spend their evenings at a disco in Brooklyn, longing for something bigger and better. Efron compared the music in both films, but music is far from the only similarity.
The Valley is Brooklyn
Both We Are Your Friends and Saturday Night Fever’s protagonists, EDM DJ Cole Carter (Efron) and dancer Tony Manero (Travolta), live in the “unimportant,” “uncool,” “bridge and tunnel” outskirts that surround The Most Important Place On Earth.
As Tony lived in a pre-hip Brooklyn, Cole lives in The Valley … both places defined by just how close they are to “what’s happening,” even though nothing much is happening where they are. They both think that their respective talents are their ticket to the big time. They soon start working together.
Social is 2001 Odyssey
Tony and his buddies hang out at a local Brooklyn dance club called 2001 Odyssey, Tony pretty much owns this place. It’s here that he meets Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney), a woman who probably would never hang out at a place like 2001 Odyssey in million years.
Cole does promotion in The Valley at a terrible place called Social. This is where he meets Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), a woman who probably would never hang out at a place like Social in million years. They soon start working together.
Sophie is Stephanie
Both are women who represent a better place and a better life. Both are women who work closely with Cole and Tony, having to, at first, rebuff their advances before, eventually, a quasi-relationship starts.
In their respective groups, Cole and Tony have “The Talent”
Both Cole and Tony have immense talent, while their friends aren’t really good at much of anything except hanging out with Cole and Tony. Actually, in both movies, these friends have social lives that seem to completely revolve around Cole and Tony’s schedule. They are all mostly hanger-ons that either don’t do much for Cole and Tony’s aspirations, or, worse, are there just to get Cole and Tony into trouble, namely:
Fight, fight, fight!
Both films feature a scene in which Cole’s group of friends and Tony’s group of friends actively seek to get into a physical altercation with rivals.
Backseat car sex
Both films feature a scene in which a member of Cole and Tony’s respective crews have sex in the backseat of a car, played for laughs.
Squirrel is Bobby C.
This is the hardest one to come to terms with because it’s just so similar (and the most spoilery part of this post; you’ve been warned), to the point they should have just named Squirrel “Bobby C.” Or maybe his real name is actually Bobby C.?
Both Squirrel and Bobby C. are the misfit, awkward types of their respective groups.
Both Squirrel and Bobby C. own the car that drives the group around.
Both Squirrel and Bobby C. are forced to be a passenger in his own car after a cooler member of the group decides he wants to drive.
Both Squirrel and Bobby C., at one point, try to have a meaningful conversation with Cole/Tony about something going on in his private life. Neither Cole or Tony listen until it’s too late.
Both Squirrel and Bobby C. have tragic, but not altogether surprising fates.
This tragedy inspires Cole/Tony to reconnect with Sophie/Stephanie.
Heck, these two even kinda, sorta look alike! (RIP, fellas.)
It’s not totally crazy that a movie like We Are Your Friends would borrow so much from Saturday Night Fever — if you’re going to mimic beats from another movie, Saturday Night Fever is not a bad one to cull from. Though, it’s pretty funny to hear anyone involved with We Are Your Friends compare themselves with Saturday Night Fever or suggest that it’s a Saturday Night Fever for a new generation … when all they did was pretty much remake Saturday Night Fever.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.