If ever a movie earned the exclamation point in its title, it's Lukas Moodysson's "We Are the Best!" Bursting with the energy of adolescence, the story of three young female punkers feels practically revolutionary in its joy, a departure from the melancholy and introspection that characterize so many screen portraits of teens. The optimism and collaborative dynamics are decidedly more in tune with the director's early, commune-set "Together" than with his stark experimental work.
Set in 1982 Stockholm and based on the autobiographical graphic novel "Never Goodnight" by Coco Moodysson, the filmmaker's wife, the perfectly cast comedy follows the exuberant thrashings of a DIY band. On a whim that becomes a calling, 13-year-old best friends Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and the unstoppable, Mohawk-sporting Klara (Mira Grosin) score rehearsal time at the youth center, outmaneuvering a group of casually misogynist boys who have creatively named their metal band Iron Fist.
The girls' next smart move is to invite a guitar-whiz schoolmate, Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), to join them in their mission to resuscitate punk during the rise of new wave — and to teach them some chords. Though her Christian faith is a red flag for free-thinkers Klara and Bobo, they're confident they can change her mind on the whole God thing. The three outsiders' friendships weather reversals, haircuts and boys, only to deepen.
Moodysson captures that moment — charged, goofy and transcendent — when personal style and wide-ranging outrage fuse in an all-encompassing manifesto. The girls' first song is a rant about annoying jocks, nuclear destruction and world hunger. Watching their parents manage expectations, they're eye-rollingly confident, like most teens, that they'll never settle for mediocrity. The way Grosin's Klara fairly jumps off the screen with righteous exasperation and self-certainty, you believe that just might be true.
"We Are the Best!"
No MPAA rating; in Swedish with English subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.
At Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles