Saturday, December 27, 2014

Movies You May Have Missed - We Are The Best! (2013)

Lukas Moodysson is a supreme film director. He charms you, at times while breaking your heart (Show Me Love, Together) and sometimes he just breaks your heart, irreparably (Lilya 4-Ever, which I'm convinced altered my brain chemistry with its tragic human-trafficking story). We Are The Best! is based on his wife Coco's autobiographical graphic novel "Never Goodnight," about her early-teen punk-rock days in 1982 Stockholm. And like a graphic novel, Moodysson sets the story down as if in panels of a comic, with minor beginnings and endings as his three protagonists find one another, form a band and glory in the waning era of punk.

Refusing to believe punk is dying, even as the genre morphs into more commercially viable new wave, punk middle-schoolers, Klara, Bobo and Hedvig don't have any major revelations other than forming a friendship with one another in a world that doesn't understand them. But is anything more revelatory to a 13-year-old? One of Moodysson's great strengths is his understanding and ability to portray the human yearning for connection and acceptance, especially among young people. A satirical humanist with a spiritual, clear-eyed core, Moodysson is a rare artist in today's film world.

And now:

Our alienated teen protagonists: Bobo (Mira Barkhammar):

And her friend in punk, Klara (Mira Grosin):

Bobo's divorced mom is busy with a series of boyfriends and Klara's somewhat eccentric family doesn't take her political posturing seriously. Both girls are not exactly at the top of the popularity pool among their peers. Haircuts and baggy clothes are their outward manifestation of rebellion. But they truly do love punk music, finding comfort in the anger and pathos of musical misfitism.

A vapid schoolmate is not impressed

The local rock band, Iron Fist, who practice at their youth center, are about as disrespectful as you can imagine.

But when Iron Fist forgets to sign in for their regularly scheduled rehearsal night, the girls pounce for their chance to use the center's band room and piss off obnoxious boys at the same time.

Their first truly punk-situationist action

Even though neither has played an instrument in her life.

But that never stopped a punk band from trying and soon Klara has turned their outward humiliation into art. Of sorts. It's a perfect punk-rock feminist moment.

Disdainful of their P.E. teacher's athletic rules and regulations, the girls write their first song, "Hate the Sport" during a basketball-imposed infraction. This is how it all begins, man.

Clear-headed enough to recognize their inability to sing, play, or otherwise get it together music-wise, Bobo and Klara decide to recruit shy, friendless, classically trained Hedvig (Liz Lemoyne) into their new scene.

The angelic Hedvig

The fact that Hedvig is a practicing Christian is a bit of a ideological stumbling block, especially for Klara, who calls God a fascist. But they figure they'll just change Hedvig's mind about her faith and all will be kosher.

In one of the film's lovely surprises, Hedvig turns out to be a true practicing Christian. That is, a good soul. She teaches the girls about chords, harmonies and playing in the same key. She also acts as a mature, even nurturing presence, bridging Bobo's tendency toward self-hating despair and Klara's narcissistic brattiness. Every trio should be so lucky.

The girls reward her with a new peer-sanctioned haircut.

All is not serene within their unnamed band. There are punk-rock boys to contend with.

Ah, memories...

And all the jealousies and rivalries that can occur when girls enter the boys' world of rock music. Also, Bobo has a crush on Klara's older brother, Linus, who Klara despises ever since he gave up punk for all things Joy Division. Moodysson subverts the usual "teen party while the parents are away" scene in surprising, subtle fashion. I love how he allows compassion to come forth from unlikely cinematic sources.

Besides the camaraderie and excitement of expressing themselves musically, punk allows the girls to be themselves—a little pissed off, somewhat alienated, funny, intelligent and feminine on their own terms. We Are The Best! manages all this within its episodic realism. It salutes punk, adolescence and creative self-expression while celebrating friendship and girl power among the idiots. See it.


Hedvig's folk-cover of KSMB's Sex Noll Två (Six Zero Two) that brings her new friends to tears, in its entirety.

The exuberant Vad ska du bli? (What are you going to be?) by Ebba Grön, bookends the movie and expresses the anxiety of growing up ordinary in an workaday world.

An inteview with Lukas Moodysson by Steven Saito in The Moveable Fest.

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