My affection for We Are The Best! could be compared to the happiness some found in last year’s sleeper hit Good Vibrations. Both films share the same type of optimism towards punk rock music, as well as curious characters figuring out life through the off-beat genre.
Good Vibrations won many audiences over with its sentimentality. Though the whole thing was too precious for me, I’m happy for those who found pleasing values in the Terri Hooley biopic. Hopefully, those same people will join me in enjoying We Are The Best!. I’ll be secretly wishing they see my side of the story more clearly once they see how Lukas Moodysson executes similar themes with more integral oomph.
Moodysson takes the greeting card approach Good Vibrations wore on its sleeve and throws it out the window. His film feels very autobiographical considering the visceral vibes it gives off, and We Are The Best! often feels like we’re watching a documentary.
Moodysson captures everyday routines of friends Bobo and Klara (played by Mira Barkhammar and Mira Grosin). The girls aren’t relentlessly picked on, but they feel invisible. Their different tastes separate them from the rest of their school. They have no problem whatsoever taking their preferences even further to create their own band that specializes in punk rock. They figure if they can’t beat them, they should do whatever makes them happy.
Bobo and Klara join creative forces with a shy, guitar wiz (Catholic teen Hedvig played by Liv LeMoyne) and soon enough, the three are making music. The twosome doesn’t have to frantically sell the idea of their band to Hedvig. She wants a piece because she feels an equal blank connection from everyone else.
We Are The Best! doesn’t throw any new punches by any means and the growing pains the three lives deal with are ones we could’ve predicted (i.e: boy trouble, feeling your friends are leaving you behind). However, a lot of the formulaic business in Moodysson’s film is countered by honourable performances and an overall genuine sweetness that could raise anyone’s spirits. It’s kind of hard to frown during performances of their loudly infallible single about dumb sports.
We Are The Best! also doesn’t pressingly stick with a rock solid plot. Even though it’s based off of Coco Moodysson’s graphic novel, Lukas’ indie flies by the seat of its pants. It’s a teenage coming-of-age story for all three musicians. If a plot happens to fall into place, so be it. Otherwise, Moodysson lets his young performers have lots of leeway, which usually turns into the actors taking full control of the movie. Since We Are The Best! is choosing to be multiple middle school character studies, this is a sensible move for the filmmaker and his movie.
Barkhammer, Grosin, and LeMoyane are all terrific and often hit the bullseye on how their characters should be portrayed. Barkhammer displays Bobo as someone who is an ideas person, but is dependant on those who provide comfort. She does this without the slightest hint of neediness. Grosin is a cheeky hoot as the more persuasive, unabbreviated pal; and LeMoyane’s plush process embodying her into a more spunky personality is a real treat.
Moodysson leaves us with the reminder that punk music – while having the aura of rebellion which some later interpreted as subversive anarchy – was much more than listeners “acting out”. Just as Good Vibrations sappily showed, the people who gathered around the genre were often wanderers looking for a common homestead. The adorable leads in the much more natural We Are The Best! have steadiness, but seek out that generational relation they seem to be missing.
The rowdy gallivanting by these girlfriends who find punk endearing shouldn’t be seen as intimidation or annoyance, but rather seen as ecstatic acceptance by those who have been looking for that missing piece for so long.