Saturday, January 31, 2015

movie review: We Are the Best! [original title: Vi är bäst!]

We Are The Best! [Vi är bäst!]
(Sweden, 2013)
director: Lucas Moodysson

This is a fun slice of life movie about three young teenaged girls who form a punk band in Stockholm in 1982. It is based on a graphic novel by Coco Moodysson, the director's wife, which in turn is loosely based on her own experiences.

The movie is told from the perspective of Bobo (Mira Barkhammar), a 13 year old who lives with her single mother. Bobo wants to be a punk and is used to facing the taunts of the kids at school who don't understand why she has cut her hair so short and refuses to dress like the other girls. It's OK though, she has her friend Klara (Mira Grosin) who has similar interests and a similar lack of interest in fitting in with conventional beauty standards. The two hang out, talk about important issues like the nuclear arms race and how stupid it is that their classmates are obsessed with sports. One day at the youth centre, they take over the band practice space because they're tired of being bullied by the boys who usually monopolize it, and they try their hand at playing drums and bass. At the annual school concert, they realize that their shy, slightly older schoolmate Hedwig (Liv LeMoyne), booed every year for playing classical guitar, is actually quite talented, and they recruit her to be in their band. She is the one who teaches them about things like chords, harmony, and, you know, tuning one's instrument.

Yes, We Are The Best! is about the punk band the girls form, but it's actually mostly about friendship and the sorts of dumb but harmless and fun things kids get up to at that age. There is some DIY punk hairstyling, a rather queasy-making evening of smooshing up ice cream sundae ingredients to be gobbled down later, drinking too much wine and barfing on Klara's older brother's records ("Well, he's the one who left them on the floor," says Klara reassuringly to a mortified Bobo). There is a little bit of dramatic tension over the fact that Klara always has to have her own way and isn't always great about letting Bobo and Hedwig steer the ship, and there is a little tiny bit of awkward teen romance with a local boys' punk band. Overall, however, it just follows the girls over a few months and documents their friendship and their growing confidence in themselves and their music (which, spoiler alert, doesn't ever get really polished, but that's OK, because it's not meant to be one of those movies). There is a great scene where two of the adult male staff members at the youth centre insist on calling the girls' band a "girl band" even after they say it is not a "girl band," and then condescendingly offer to teach Hedwig how to play the new electric guitar that's been purchased for the centre. It was pretty much my favourite scene in the movie.

As I said to my friend after We Are The Best! was over, it's so rare to see a movie that is entirely about girls just being themselves. She pointed out that it's also rare to have a movie that is entirely from girls' perspective, rather than just being about them. Here, then, is a movie that cheerfully passes the Bechdel Test in the most refreshing and joyful way.

No comments: