We Are the Best!

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
We Are the Best!
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are 13-year olds girls growing up in 1982 Stockholm, Sweden and, like teens everywhere, are passionate about their music: punk rock. Despite being told that punk is dead, they decide to form a band, even though they have no instruments – or talent. They convince another girl, Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), who can actually play the guitar and sing, to join them and prove “We Are the Best!”

Robin:
This is a light little teen fantasy about kids facing the trials of teenage life (like parents) and winning. The youngsters playing Bobo and Klara have a lot of energy and presence on the screen. You know they will be best friends forever – even when they both crush on the same boy – and the kids do a good job bonding. The Hedwig character, though, always feels like a third wheel and one never gets the impression that the girls are the Three Amigos. Other supporting characters – parents, adults, musicians – are not fleshed out, except Bobo’s mom (Anna Rydgren), who has a great deal of subtle wisdom for her daughter,

Fans of punk rock (who also happen to be film buffs) should get a bit of pleasure from the film but it is really targeted at an audience at an age with the characters. I am not sure that there are many teens who like punk. Plus, the film is in Swedish with English subtitles, negating the possibility it will even be seen by teens in the US. I give it a C+.

Laura:
Bobo's (Mira Barkhammar) embarrassed when her mother Lena (Anna Rydgren) calls attention to her DIY haircut during a party.  At school the next day, two bubble gum blonds tell her and her mohawked friend Klara (Mira Grosin) that 'Punk is dead!'  Klara digs in her boot heels and decides they should form a band, but as they need someone who can actually play an instrument, they recruit born again Christian loner Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) in "We Are the Best!"

Writer/director Lukas Moodysson ("Lilya 4-Ever") adapts his wife's graphic novel 'Never Goodnight' for a return to his early, youth-oriented films ("Show Me Love," "Together), but considering the the story's female centric rebellion theme, it's a huge disappointment to see it slide into competitive jealousy over a cute boy while Hedvig's thread is largely abandoned after she's been made to conform to Klara and Bobo's standards.  There are sweet moments and Grosin's dynamic performance percolates, but "We Are the Best!" is more tedious than anarchic.

These thirteen year-old girls in 1982 Stockholm deal with the same issues as most their age in the Western world - annoying parents, self-definition through tribal 'individualism' and music and the pecking order of the high school cafeteria.  Klara gets her band idea listening to Iron Fist outside their rehearsal space at the youth center and decides to stir things up by signing up for the time they neglected to, a 'rule' enforced by the recreation leaders (Matte Wiberg and Johan Liljemark of the Swedish punk band Sabotage) even though Klara and Bobo have no instruments.  This could be read as either a critique on democracy in action or an undermining of the punk sensibility, but this film doesn't appear to be thinking too deeply and it merely serves for us to witness the racket created by Klara and Bobo with house instruments ('the drums don't have cords, do they?') before Hedvig is signed up.

Hedvig is another outsider, a long haired blond who wears a crucifix and severe dress as she plays classical guitar on the school stage denied Bobo and Klara.  While only the two punks appear disgusted with the spandexed disco line dance the auditorium cheers, Hedvig is treated poorly and it gets Klara to thinking - why does she carry on only to be humiliated? With Hedvig teaching them basic chords, they actually begin to sound like something (Klara and Bobo already have their lyrics - 'Hate the Sport!'), but they get a fierce talking to from Hedvig's mom after Klara chops off the girl's hair.  Then an article in the local paper calls their attention to a group of male punkers and Klara sets her sights on Elis (Jonathan Salomonsson), the good looking one.

After this, the film begins a slide into Tiger Beat territory as the threesome giggle over such things as food fights and Klara breaks their code by donning eye makeup to meet up with the boys.  It's amusing to see allegiances shift between bands like Ebba Grön and KSMB depending on who deems which 'cool' and the kids' efforts to broach world hunger and politics bring a smile (Ellis's song, 'Brezjnev Reagan F&*%! Off,' was a Sabotage song). A pan handling montage, in which various approaches are used to raise funds for instruments, is a study in Klara's aggressiveness influencing Bobo's more introverted nature.

"We Are the Best!" isn't so much a feminine embrace of the punk spirit as it is a light and larkish ode to adolescence.  It sidles up to some important themes only to skitter away from them.

C+
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