The least surprising thing I learned after We Are the Best! was that it was based on a comic-book memoir. This, simply because the movie shows a level of authenticity to its emotional center that movies, especially coming-of-age or teenage stories, ever achieve. Coco Moodysson is the author of the memoir, and her husband, Lukas Moodysson (who about a decade ago made a fantastic movie called Together) is the director of the movie adaptation. This story of three teenage punk rockers in 1980s Stockholm makes for one of the best movies I’ve ever seen about what it feels like to be a thirteen year old.
Being a teenager is ridiculous. Everybody goes through it during their lifetime, and many try to make movies about it, but it’s a moment in life with such a particular feeling, that most people who attempt at doing this (be it in movies, young adult novels, or television series) tend to fail miserably. A lot of these movies portray this transitional moment as both intensely dramatic in certain aspects and stupidly cutesy and quirky in others. Movies like, for example, The Perks of Being a Wallflower are not so much a portrayal of actual teenage years, as a fantasy version of what a teenager feels his or her life is like. It doesn’t help that the actors in those movies are usually past their teenage years. They live and die on fake angst and corny lines that will be posted on Facebook walls forever like “we accept the love we think we deserve.” These movies feel, to me, as prefabricated and mechanical as the big superhero movies of the summer.
But enough of that. This isn’t supposed to be a rant about coming-of-age movies, this is a rave review, for We Are the Best! is a gem both as a story about growing up and a story about rock n’ roll. It does so many things right that I couldn’t even begin to list them, but the most important thing it does, is to capture the attitude these girls would have towards life. They aren’t mopey teens, or manic-pixie-highschoolers, they are true human beings that are growing up, and while they may have problems at home, and complain, in young Will Smith fashion, that “parents just don’t understand”, they just go on with their lives, and look for a moment to hang out with their friends and have a good laugh, because, at the end of the day, they are in the best band in the world. This is never more apparent than in the movie’s last scene before the credits, which I won’t spoil, except for the fact that it takes place on a bus and shows the mischievous, gloriously immature attitude that most thirteen year old people adopt the minute they step on a bus.
The delightful trio of main characters in this movie are Bobo (Mira Barkhammer), who just can’t seem to connect with her oblivious mother, Klara (Mira Grosin), the one with the mohawk and the most attitude, and Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), who is recruited to be part of the group despite being a Christian because is actually a great musician. The movie smartly downplays the household problems in Bobo and Hedvig’s household, they factor as pieces of important information in who these girls are, but don’t color the movie in any hugely important dramatic way. They just give us a little glimpse into why they would want to rebel. As for Klara, well, she is the most carefree of the three, but as played by Grosin, comes out as one of the most magnetic and hilarious characters I’ve seen in a long time.
I can’t lie and not say that a large part of why I like this movie is that I saw a lot of myself in it. On those lines, I usually wouldn’t find it necessary to point out that I was never a teenage Swedish girl, except that I find it incredibly gratifying, in turn of the horrible stuff that has been going around the country in the last few weeks, to be able to sit in a movie theater and watch a movie about three girls self-arming themselves with the power to declare themselves whatever they want to be – the rest of the world be damned. At a moment in the movie, they are referred to as a “girl band”, a title that they infuriatingly refuse to accept. They are what they are. They are the best. And you deserve to see them.
Grade: 9 out of 10