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'We Are the Best!' a rocking coming of age tale.

Byline: Jeffrey Long

'We Are the Best!'

1/2

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures

Rating: No Rating

Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

How can a girl with a bouncy name like "Bobo'' ever be unhappy? "We Are the Best!'' is a lively comedy that is about a teen who feels anything but alive, stuck at the unlucky age of 13.

True, Bobo (played by Mira Barkhammar) does have Lena for a caring mother. But the apartment that Bobo shares with her single mom in 1982 Stockholm has begun to feel more like a bus station -- one through which Lena's boyfriends come and go. Almost as fragile as Bobo, Lena is more like a wounded older sister than a mother to her daughter.

Bobo also has a sympathetic best friend, Klara. But Klara knows what it is like to have been (at least occasionally) invited to a party by a boy. Bobo does not. She perceives herself to be even more of an outsider than Klara, a nihilistic girl who, for good measure, wears a Mohawk.

But these misfits are inseparable, united in their rage against mainstream culture. They cannot understand how hordes can play soccer in the shadows of nuclear power plants. Bobo and Klara stand up to snippy girls who seem to be all bubble gum and self-absorption. They also ignore the ugly taunts of boys.

Although their classmates are immersed in disco, our heroines stubbornly listen on their Walkmans to the Swedish punk band Ebba Gron. Then, while Bobo and Klara are half-heartedly running some punishment laps in gym class one day, they begin to channel their anger into words -- the lyrics of their own defiant song. They will register their complaints about the world through their own homegrown punk band.

The girls now spend even more time together, but the gestation period of their embryonic song stretches on and on. Lacking musical instruments, Klara lamely improvises by strumming a tennis racket, while Bobo bangs out an off-key beat on overturned pans and bakery tins. Neither girl has even a basic understanding of chords or melody.

But they find a possible ally and mentor in Hedvig -- a Christian classmate with musical talent. However, this girl is more comfortable singing tunes by Peter, Paul and Mary than ones by the Dead Kennedys. At this point, the movie turns on its afterburners and shoots forward with even more angst and exuberance.

As a light comedy, this film necessarily lacks the heft of more serious female coming-of-age movies, such as "The Runaways'' (2010) and "Ginger & Rosa'' (2012). Also, its script could have better fleshed-out its two lead characters. Still, we are offered a nice mix of little-known actors effectively portraying offbeat but grounded individuals -- including such peripheral characters as Bobo's father and Klara's brother, whose arcs swing in just close enough to the story's main action and themes.

The picture was directed by Lukas Moodysson, whose earlier work includes the much-acclaimed teen drama "Lilya 4-Ever.'' He adapted this latest film from a graphic novel produced by his wife. "We Are the Best!'' may not be the best movie of 2014, but it carries with it a buoyant spirit that has deservedly earned it nominations and awards from across Europe, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States.

"We Are the Best!'' will be shown in Room 320, Jefferson Academic Center, Clark University, at 7:30 tonight and Saturday, and on Sunday at 1 and 3:05 pm. Tickets: $6 adults, $4 seniors 60 and over, $3 Clark students, faculty and staff (with Clark ID).
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Title Annotation:Living
Author:Long, Jeffrey
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 9, 2014
Words:592
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