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'We Are the Best!' movie review: Rousing story of punk rebellion a joyous winner

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We Are The Best!

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If you’ve ever dreamed of starting up a band and, just for once, sticking it to the man, get ready to be wowed by We Are the Best!, a rousing coming-of-age tale packed with laughs, well-earned sentiment and plenty of punk attitude that opens June 29 in Atlanta.

It’s Sweden, 1982, and two 7th grade best friends have had just about enough of conforming classmates, lame parents, bland New Wave music and other such societal ills. What to do? Tomboyish, glasses-toting Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and mouthy, mohawk-sporting Klara (Mira Grosin) decide to form a punk rock band and rail against the world around them. Never mind that they have no musical talent whatsoever.

What they do have are boundless reserves of creativity, attitude and fearlessness. Jogging laps during gym class, they decide their distaste for athletics would make the perfect topic for a song and start brainstorming some of the dopest rhymes this side of Mr. Lif. Sample lyric: “The world is a morgue / But you’re watching Bjorn Borg.” I’d definitely buy that album.

Eventually even Bobo and Klara realize they need some musical expertise and seek out assistance from an unlikely source: born-again Christian Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne). She may be hopelessly lame in their eyes, but she has the musical chops they need and, just as importantly, is as much a social misfit as they are. Yep, she’ll fit right in.

In between banging out a rough version of their anthem “Hate the Sport,” the girls do what 13-year-olds do … swipe some booze at a party, meet and squabble over boys, make outrageous fashion statements and build lasting friendships.

Acclaimed director Lukas Moodysson (Show Me Love, Lilya 4-ever), working from his wife Coco’s graphic novel, avoids the flash you might expect from a director whose movies have been nominated for three European Film Awards, letting scenes unwind slowly and naturally in a way that adds realism but remains entertaining.

Credit that joyfulness to the likable trio of Barkhammar, Grosin and LeMoyne, who prove adept at conveying the roiling emotions bubbling up in these adolescent women. And Moodysson is clearly jazzed by telling a cheerful coming-of-age story from an unconventional perspective – not a lot of females in the early-1980s punk scene – drawing alternately poignant and hilarious turns from the inexperienced actresses.

Rounding out the fun is a blistering soundtrack packed with boisterous punk tunes. Killer cuts from obscure Swedish bands like Ebba Grön will have loud rock fans racing to their favorite digital download source to seek out similar fare.

If you like your coming-of-age stories served up with the perfect balance of sweetness, spunk and snarling rebellion, don’t miss We Are the Best! Because, you know, “People die and scream / But all you care about / Is your high-jump team.”

Grade: B+

"We Are the Best!" opens in Atlanta on June 29 at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

Follow me at http://twitter.com/ATLFilmExaminer.

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