We Are the Best!

We Are the Best!

I hate to sound reactionary, but I am so happy to see Swedish director Lukas Moodysson return to his upbeat beginnings, after several years making important-seeming but hard-to-sit-through movies (Lilya 4-Ever, A Hole in My Heart, and Mammoth are all major downers; I missed the experimental Container).

We Are the Best!, based on Moodysson's wife Coco's comic book, concerns three 7th grade girls in 1982 Stockholm who decide to form a punk band. With its retro setting and its young cast, it immediately brought me back to the director's vibrant first features Show Me Love and Together, both of which are very much worth seeing if you haven't yet.

Moodysson has a keen eye for depicting youth with real honesty. The girls in this film are all 12 or 13, and they act it. They're not precocious (though one has genuine musical talent). Their world view, as befits a 7th grader, is limited to school and home: their big punk song, for example, is a clunky stab at jocks, with strictly juvenile political allusions. They are still very much children, even if they are dying to grow up (drinking, dating, defying authority). They giggle over silly games. They spazz out, repeatedly. They treat simple misunderstandings and injuries as life-or-death situations. In short, they are painfully real. This is no streamlined Spielberg adolescence. And the three young actresses are uniformly excellent.

What Lukas and Coco Moodysson also get right, I think, is the punk spirit: We Are the Best! implicitly suggests that punk rock is best suited for 12 year olds. These girls' natural flair for anarchy, buoyed by the fact that they have no illusions about their self-absorbed (yet likable) parents, makes them perfect punks, and the 1982 setting, when the original punks had long left the genre for dead, makes the girls' aspirations more poignant. (It's worth mentioning that the Moodyssons would have been the age of their protagonists in 1982.)

In any event, if you haven't so blocked out your own awkward preteen years that you can't identify with these girls' shenanigans, We Are the Best! has plenty to offer. You will not be disappointed.