By turns a feel-good punk rock comedy and a would-be empowering vehicle for teenage girls everywhere, "WE ARE THE BEST!" didn’t really do much to make me laugh or drive me to start the feminist revolution – but it’s harmless and moderately entertaining fun nonetheless. Set in early 1980s Stockholm – and entirely filmed during the frozen winter, giving that gorgeous city an undeserved bleak and depressing feel – it centers on two bored 13-year-old outcasts and punk fans, Klara and Bobo. Klara’s the domineering, pretty, somewhat reckless one (I recognize many punk rock women from my teens and 20s in her); Bobo’s the more introspective, sullen, cautious and altogether Swedish of the two.
They’re already full-on into their rebellious teenage years, and their wacky homemade haircuts and jarring music are contrasted with the staid ordinariness of their peers and families. They’re sweet girls, to be fair, and they recognize a third misfit outcast – a talented classically-trained musician named Hedvig who just happens to be a full-on Christian – as a potential member of their made-up band.
How do they get into a band? They’re simply called “ugly” by a group of cheeseball heavy metal dorks called Iron Fist, and on the spot, they form a dissonant punk band despite not possessing even having a shred of musical knowledge. No worries, Hedvig does, and once we get through a few comic scenes of Klara and Bobo awkwardly trying to integrate her and her long, pretty hair and Christian values into their worldview, they’re off and running with rad songs like the anti-sports “Hate the Sport” (“Hate the sport / Hate the sport / Hate hate hate hate the sport.”) . Hedvig becomes the unifier of three different teenage rebel streaks, and is a nice token to show how punk rock was such a great leveler in so many ways.
Speaking of great songs, they encounter a punk band made up of two guys who perform a song called “Brezhnev Reagan” for them - (“Brezhnev and Reagan – fuck off! Brezhnev and Reagan – fuck off!). Lukas Moodysson knows just enough about this era to finely thread the line between silly comedy and truthful depictions of early punk. The three girls have a series of John Hughes-esque moments in their struggles to find themselves and establish their band, and it’s fairly predictable how things will go from there.
While the movie’s received a great deal of praise simply be being fun and joyful – and believe me, it’s eminently watchable and even a delight in parts – I’d perhaps hoped for something a little more cutting. It might have a tad more depth than "Rock and Roll High School" or "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains", but it’s much closer in spirit and approach to ‘sploitation films than it is urgent indie drama. Whether that’s enough to get you on the Celluloid Couch to watch it is entirely up to you.