Bobo and Klara, two 13 year-old Swedish girls, are having a debate by telephone. And the moment Klara (Mira Grosin) holds her phone through the cracked door, capturing a loud, pointless shouting match her free-spirited mother and father are having, “We Are the Best!” sets itself apart from other coming-of-age pictures.
“See?” she says. “MY parents are worse!”
“We Are the Best!” is a musical period piece, a winning tale of girls figuring out who they are, what their tribe will be and who they can depend on as they punch through whatever glass ceiling Sweden has to offer their sex in 1982.
The first ceiling? It’s the age of ABBA, but Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara are punks.
“Punk’s dead,” their derisive classmates might say, at their choppy hairstyles and tastes in music. “Don’t you know that?”
They don’t. And Bobo, a wallflower emboldened by the defiant Klara, is determined to be every bit the punk her more assertive best friend is.
They hate gym class, try to talk cashiers in the food court into the socialist idea of giving them free french fries, panhandle strangers and annoy their teachers and classmates.
“We have a band,” Klara lies. And so they do, borrowing instruments, demanding rehearsal time at the local community center and thus ticking off the heavy metal wannabes Iron Fist, who bullied them.
Klara will play bass, write a song and sing it. Bobo, eager to please, takes up the drums. They hate gym? “Hate the Sport” becomes their first punk anthem.
Lukas Moodysson’s film, based on his wife Coco Moodysson’s comic book, beautifully captures that last stretch of innocence in childhood. They’re obsessed with music, wearing out their favorite Scandi-punk tapes on their Sony Walkmen.
Klara and Bobo read about Swedish punk rockers close to their age in the newspaper, and Klara boldly calls them up and makes a hang-out date with them. Boys, of course, are what come between girls. They’ve got to learn that sooner or later.
They need a guitarist? Why not court the conservative, shy “Kumbaya” playing Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne)?
“We Are the Best!” is a scruffy, anarchic picture that gets better as it stumbles along. There’s just a hint of formula here — the “band” will make its debut at a coming community center Christmas concert. Will they humiliate themselves, or is that just a smidge of improvement we detect, rehearsal by rehearsal?
The point, for those who remember that era in America and Britain, is that “It’s punk. Who’ll know the difference?” It’s the brash attitude, the defiant haircuts and the rage that counts. Even when you’re 13 and Swedish and the best thing you have to rebel against is gym class.
MPAA Rating: Unrated, with adult situations, profanity, teens partying
Cast: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne
Credits: Written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, based on the Coco Moodysson comic book. A Magnolia release.
Running time: 1:38