Clicking and Streaming: 'We Are The Best'

City Paper

Socialist-Feminist-Christian filmmaker Lukas Moodysson fuels his work with a histrionic, teenaged immediacy that makes him equally adept at delivering Lars Von Trier-ian misery (“Lilya-4-Ever,” “A Hole In My Heart”) and adoring, Jean Renoir-ian foible-flicking (“Show Me Love,” “Together”). His energy’s never been quite as sustained and ecstatic as it is in the smart, sweet “We Are The Best!” though, about a middle school female punk trio in Sweden in 1982. Best friends and aspiring punks Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) troll their metalhead bullies by claiming they have a band and stealing some of their practice time at the community center. Their first song consists of the phrase “prettiest girls in town” over and over, twisting their tormentors’ insult. The song also stinks. So they recruit Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a creepily Christian girl great at guitar who wows them at a school talent show. The contingencies of adolescence are such that Hedvig ends up having plenty in common with these two shit-starters and the best-ever punk band out of Sweden is formed.

Moodysson’s camera is intimate, like he’s right there hanging out with the three of them, and even the narrative itself feels beholden to their adolescent whims. A scene where they find a dirty trash bag full of yarn on the street and take it home and goof around is “unnecessary” from a plot-development perspective, but crucial to illustrating how big moments in teenage life, especially for young women, barely scan as much of anything to the rest of us. And the band’s songs are simple, stupid, and awesome. “Hate the sport, hate the sport,” goes one that rails against their gym class, which illustrates just how much Moodysson “gets” these kids: He even loves their obnoxious, inarticulate rage. Meanwhile, male condescension and disappointment in dudes pervades and the girls must transcend or at least deliver some Liz Lemon-level eyerolls at it all: The aging rock ‘n’ rollers that run the community center insist on calling them “a girl band” and, upon meeting Hedvig, assume she can’t play the guitar, even though she’s got Andrés Segovia-level chops; some cute boys in the nearby big-deal-ish punk band turn out to be political dim morons (which is a huge bummer) who just wanna make out (which is cool, for a little while at least). Everything matters so much here. 

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