Reviewed for the Miami International Film Festival 2014.
“I don’t get it. Punk is dead. Haven’t you figured that out yet?”
No one can convince Bobo and Klara that starting up a punk band in Stockholm in 1982 is a bad idea, not even Hedvig, the Christian girl they’ve coaxed into joining and teaching them to play music. They may look like preteen girls just going through the motions of rebelling by shaving their heads, making little projects about nuclear war, and trying to start a band with little to no musical talent, but in reality, they’re just some kids trying to find themselves by embarking on this little adventure together. They’re young, they think they’re mature, and they just want to find solace in punk in a world where every adult around them disappoints.
Being a rebellious teen isn’t exactly something unfamiliar to most people, and all the overwhelming insecurity that comes with it is something that Lukas Moodysson captures perfectly. Nobody really wants to remember every childish moment by watching them unfold on screen, but Vi är bäst! (a/k/a We Are the Best!) reminds that it’s an essential period of life. This results in moments both fun and frustrating; with lots of arguing and awkward situations that almost make the girls, other than Hedvig, come off as unlikable. But a good movie can pull itself out of the tired situations that one might expect from a collective of preteen girls — fighting over boys holds up a lot of the back-half’s screen time — and this one does that by showing that they’re more than just angst-fueled youths. There’s warmth in the film for these kids, possibly because Moodysson adapted it from a graphic novel his wife wrote.
It’s a nice little dramedy that mirrors a lot of things one might find typical to all sorts of big bands, just transposed to a tiny situation in the eighties. And the film is drowning in its period, most notably in the punk outfits and bright spandex leotards that contrast them. These aren’t girls who want to dance to the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me,” they want to follow in the footsteps of every punk band they love. Most of the comedy comes from the interactions between the girls when they were trying to start up the band, and the drama ensues from their lives at home and the interference of potential romance.
But, as one is reminded throughout, ”You have two friends who like you. That’s all a person needs.” And friendship is what makes this such a feel-good movie. Even when they’re singing a song about their soccer coach and team being awful (delightfully titled “Hate Sport”), or being told that another band triumphed over them, one can see how much they’re enjoying being in each other’s company. That’s why they proudly go on declaring Vi är bäst!
Vi är bäst! is currently available for pre-orders on Blu-ray and DVD for September 23rd, for rental through Amazon Instant Video, and on Netflix Instant (as of 11/02/14).
Directed by Lukas Moodysson; written by Lukas Moodysson; adapted from the comic book by Coco Moodysson; starring Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, and Liv LeMoyne; 102 minutes.