I saw We Are the Best! on a number of year-end 2014 lists, but always with qualifiers, the idea that “I like it” but “it’s not an awards film” permeating the chatter.
That’s a pretty good way to describe my experience with We Are the Best!. I loved the film. I thought often of Stand By Me. It’s that sort of coming of age film that many can identify with, raw, heartbreaking, funny and sometimes uncomfortable to watch, but always honest. I couldn’t imagine it as an Academy Award winner – it’s not a prestige pic – but that’s never been a problem for me.
Bobo and Klara, androgynous best friends fed up with their shallow classmates and crazy family situations, start a punk band. Neither can play an instrument, but that doesn’t stop them from writing their first song, Hate the Sport!, inspired by their loathing of their P.E. teacher. Eventually, Hedvig, a Christian girl who is a gifted classical guitar player, is sucked in to the band, and teaches Bobo and Clara a little bit about music. The rest is rock and roll history.
I found it worked for me on three fronts. First, We Are the Best! is just about being a tween/teen appalled at how ridiculous your family is. There are some great moments, particularly with Klara’s family, that really will inspire that “oh my God my family is such a fucking embarrassment” feeling that we’ve all known at one time or another. Second, I’ve played in a few bands and hung with some, and the randomness, lack of direction and tension that this trio go through rang true to me. Everyone has an agenda, and sometimes getting those agendas to mesh is messy. Finally, the boy-girl relationship trouble that almost divides the friends is heartbreaking and, for those of us who are bit past our teen years, entirely predictable.
I didn’t initially watch We Are the Best! with my 13-year-old daughter, because I didn’t know much about it and wanted to make sure it was appropriate. Now, I’m looking forward to showing it to her. Maybe she’ll start and punk band a write a song about how embarrassing her dad is. I can’t wait.