The latest from Sweden’s accomplished writer/director Lukas Moodysson (Show Me Love, Lilya 4-Ever) is an almost sickeningly cute tale of three young female punks that, aside from its admirable realism, is worlds away from the moody, atmospheric films of his past. Set in the early 1980s, three bullied young girls form a punk rock band as a means of dealing with their frustrations at school and at home. Their rebellious instincts are often punctuated by a reminder of their innocence: they may spend their free time panhandling and destroying things, but they are still shocked by the sight of a little blood. Their band experience may serve as a humorous illustration of the trajectory of high profile rock bands, the in-fighting, adultery, underappreciated drummer, but beyond that the film offers little in the way of subtext, at least the subtext that fans would want from a Moodysson film.
Moodysson took a break from the world of teenage angst following 2004’s A Hole in My Heart, making the experimental Container in 2006 and the globetrotting, mainstream bid Mammoth in 2009. We Are the Best marks his return to his roots, and the viewer is constantly reminded of the successes of his past. The realism is still there, kids talking like kids do, learning about life through their mistakes. What is missing is the attractive darkness of his former youth films, which always seemed to perfectly compliment the bleakness of his environments (a wonderfully bleak Swedish winter is indeed present in this film though). Also, like 2000’s Together, We Are the Best has a convincing period setting that allows the viewer to forget that the film was made in current times. The end result though feels like a conventional American teen film, something that will effectively inspire a new generation of young outcasts to focus their anger on creative pursuits. Educated filmgoers, on the other hand, will likely just roll their eyes, especially once the jokey end credits start rolling.
We Are the Best opens Friday, May 13 at the Ritz at the Bourse.