Magnolia Pictures has just picked up U.S. rights to Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!, reports Clint Holloway at Indiewire. “Around the time of the millennium,” writes Time Out New York‘s Joshua Rothkopf, “Sweden’s Lukas Moodysson was, to me, the most impressive filmmaker in Europe, gifted with wry comic instincts and a direct conduit to teenage emotions. Show Me Love, his 1998 feature debut, was a gloriously positive high-school romance between girls (when such scenarios were radical). Together, his tender commune-set drama, had the cosmic misfortune of being released in the US on September 11, 2001, but I know many who found it comforting. And the heartbreaking Lilya 4-Ever (2002) deserves a rank among Mouchette and the great female tragedies. Ruefully, I came to admit that Moodysson’s next decade wasn’t as concentrated. Happily, the wheel turns: To say that his euphorically funny latest, We Are the Best!, represents a total rebound is almost too modest.”
Moodysson “seemed done in and wiped out by his first film in English, a large-scale, so-so thriller with Gael García Bernal and Michelle Williams from 2009 called Mammoth,” writes Wesley Morris at Grantland. “Mammoth put him off of movies. He wrote novels. He taught film. He tried to improve his chess playing. The aggressive happiness here was a way to recharge his batteries.”
“Based on a graphic novel by the director’s wife, this is a buoyant account of three awkward-age girls”—Bobo (Mira Barkhammar), Klara (Mira Grosin), and Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne)—”who form an impromptu punk band as an escape from exasperating parents, high school bitches and solitude,” writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. “Specific to its 1982 Stockholm setting and yet thematically universal, the film is all the more disarming for its breezy unpretentiousness.”
It’s “a pulpy, enjoyable ride,” agrees Kiva Reardon, writing for the Loop. “Yet at the same time, We are the Best! is grounded in a sense of realism that brings depth to all of its characters.”
“The early-1980s setting is essential to the girls’ musical and political identities, and Moodysson and his design team have fun with the decade that good taste forgot,” writes Guy Lodge in Variety. “There’s a Polaroid softness to Ulf Brantas’s lensing, while interiors and costumes alike pop with clashing colors and textures, but the film steers just clear of camp in this department: Linda Janson and Paola Holmer’s production design is particularly perceptive, marking differences in social status by showing just how much of the 1970s lingers in different households. Music supervisor Rasmus Thord, obviously, has a ball with the material, though there’s nothing on the soundtrack quite as catchy as an artless original ditty titled ‘Brezhnev and Reagan, Fuck Off!’ Who said punk is dead?”
“By the end,” adds Fernando F. Croce in the Notebook, “it’s easy to see the band’s jubilant thrashing as a stand-in for the Swedish director’s own approach to cinema, a rough-and-tumble jam session revealing every character via a whirl of expressive energy. May he never let this spiky-tomboy side fade.”
More from Mark Adams (Screen), Camillo de Marco (Cineuropa), and Alexandra Zawia (Cinema Scope). We Are the Best! screened in the Orizzonti section at Venice and was a Special Presentation at Toronto.
Update, 9/27: “Moodysson, with his frenetic handheld camerawork and sympathetic feel for outsiders, manages to infuse We Are the Best! with something approaching a documentary-like immediacy, an approach that wards off easy sentimentality,” writes Kenji Fujishima at In Review Online. “We Are the Best! is that rare coming-of-age tale that manages to have it both ways: looking to the maturation that lies ahead while fully confirming—nay, exalting—the freedom and folly of youth.”
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