ALL I WANT IS LOVING YOU AND MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC: Lucky Them and We Are the Best!


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lucky-themLucky Them is a movie about someone who is supposed to find someone, but doesn’t really want to find him. It’s a movie about a writer who never seems to really want to write. It’s a movie about someone making a documentary film who doesn’t really want to make one.
Now, within the context of the story and characters, all of this makes perfect sense.
At the same time, because no one wants to really do anything, then nothing really gets done. The plot never really moves forward. The story never really goes anywhere.
And it takes a very long time for none of this to happen.

 

The basic premise revolves around a rock critic (an excellent as usual Toni Collette) who writes for an important music magazine. She hasn’t written anything that has gotten any attention in years and is being kept on the magazine more through the largesse of the owner/editor (a scene stealing Oliver Platt, but when hasn’t he been?) than anything.

 

But ten years ago, she was having an affair with a singer/songwriter who had all the popularity and mystique of Kurt Kolbain and whose car was found near a waterfall. It was assumed by many he committed suicide, though no body was ever found. And of course, ever since, like Elvis, there have been rumors and rumors of rumors that he is still alive.

 

Now the editor wants the writer to find out if her ex-lover is still alive. She doesn’t want to go through the pain, but her job is on the line. Actually, according to the owner, the magazine is sort of on the line. They need something big to pay the bills and he thinks this is it.

 

I know, I know. That last part about her job and the future of the magazine being on the line sounds a bit forced and arbitrary. I find it hard to believe that one story, no matter how big, can save the farm as Snidely Whiplash descends upon the poor old grandmother who has nothing in the bank. I accept that it can stave off problems for a month, maybe two, but save the whole shebang? Uhhhhhhh, no, sorry.

 

It becomes even more unbelievable at the end when you actually hear an excerpt from the story she finally submits. It’s not the sort of exciting prose that one would think would stimulate anyone to do anything, much less buy a magazine.  But the editor thinks it’s worthy of Proust, apparently, from the way he waxes rapturously over it.

 

At any rate, the writer joins forces with a wealthy dilettante (Thomas Haden Church, who is actually strangely amusing in what is probably the most original character in the piece) who is in unrequited love with and/or sexually interested in her. To go along on the ride, he claims he’s taking a documentary film class and wants to make a movie of their journey.

 

Got all that? Oh, wait, right, there’s also this subplot about an up and coming musician (Ryan Eggold, who has these chipmunk cheeks you just want to pinch he’s just sooooooooooo cute), barely old enough to be the writer’s much younger brother, who she starts up a relationship with.

 

I do agree. There is a lot of potential here. But as I said, since none of the characters really seem to want to do anything about anything, everything kind of stagnates.

 

Lucky Them is a movie in which the central character can’t pay her rent, but is never evicted and always seems to have enough money to go out partying every night. It’s a movie about a woman who leads an exciting life discovering new talent and writing about them, but whose worth is almost purely defined by her emotional relationship to men. And it’s a movie about a woman whose life is in some sort of kind of chaos, but you know everything is going to be fine because in the final scene she ends up in the arms of a good man who loves her.

 

Okay, whatever.

 

And as a side note, she’s also kind of a douche, if I may speak so freely. She finds a guitarist singing on the street (the aforesaid Eggold). He’s really good and she decides to do a story on him. They meet at a bar for the interview and at the end, they kiss. And because of that, she doesn’t do the story. She not only doesn’t do the story, she doesn’t tell him she’s not going to do it, forcing him to track her down at the office to find out what is going on.

 

I’m sorry, but in my book, that really makes her a first class douche.

 

And what makes the whole through line so unbelievable is the equanimity with which the singer takes the whole situation. He’s very understanding and keeps his cool.

 

I think I would have been throwing desks around (at least in my imagination), but hey, I guess that’s just me.

 

At any rate, whatever positives the film has lie in the characters, who, in spite of the fact that they don’t really seem to want to do anything and take their time not doing it, are actually very well written. The screenplay is by Huck Botko and Emily Wachtel from an idea by Caroline Sherman, and they bring a certain vibrancy and depth to all these people who wander around aimlessly for the most part.

 

As I said, they may not do anything, but at least they are very believable in not doing it.

 

The direction is by Megan Griffiths and she’s does a perfectly satisfying job. She tells the story clearly, if not particularly imaginatively. She’s a solid craftsman.

 

The ending culminates with a surprise. But the surprise isn’t exactly what the writers and director may have intended. We don’t find out why the singer disappeared, but we find out what actor they got to play him.   Which seems counterproductive since you stop talking about the situation and start talking about why such a big star would do such a small cameo.

 

At the same time, he’s very, very, very good.

 

Aw, hell, it’s Johnny Depp. No point in keeping that secret since it’s on IMDB and everything.

 

we-are-the-bestIt’s the 1980’s and punk is dead. Someone seems to have forgotten to tell BFFs Bobo and Klara, two early teen girls, though.

 

Actually, that’s not true. Everyone keeps telling them that. But they don’t care. They love punk and they dress the part and wear their hair short and in spikes and modified mohawks.

 

They also decide to start a band, but someone forgot to tell them they can’t play or sing.

 

Actually, that’s not true either. Everyone tells them that over and over, but that doesn’t stop them from going for it.

 

After all, they may not be tone deaf when it comes to music, but they are tone deaf when it comes to what others think of them.

 

They do manage to get one talented person to join them, Hedvig, a bit older, who has a lovely voice and knows how to pluck those strings, but who is also as isolated and alone as Bobo and Klara because she’s a Christian and no one will sit with her at her table and the whole school makes fun of her when she plays for the school show.

 

This is the basic set up for the new Swedish coming of age film We Are the Best!, written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, from a comic book by Coco Moodysson (it’s a husband/wife act), and written and directed in a far cry from Moodysson’s earlier film, Lilya 4-Ever, a tragic and downbeat story about a teenager forced into prostitution.

 

We Are the Best! is a sweet and more than engaging look at the life of tweeners who are in that period when they don’t understand life; when they don’t know where they belong, except they know they don’t belong where everybody else does; when the only cool adults are your best friend’s parents (and the brother you have a crush on); when it’s unclear just how boys fit into the equation or if they want them to.

 

It’s an astute look at the life of young people. The reality of these teens lives, the way they talk, the way they act, the way they relate to each other and the world around them is incredibly vibrant and real and has an upbeat quality to it even when the darkness comes. They want something from life, even if they don’t know what it is.

 

The dialog and conversations have a thrilling improvisational feel to it and these kids will talk about anything (God, politics, sex) in the way that kids do, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world (even if what they say is often ridiculous, which, because it’s young teens talking, makes it exciting and refreshing). The characterizations are rich and exciting.

 

The three actresses (Mira Barkhammar as Bobo; Mira Grosin as Klara; and Liv LeMoyne as Hedvig), all new to the big screen, play the roles with a great deal of ease. They go for it with all the ferociousness of youth and are a delight just to watch and Moodysson is very skilled at guiding their performances.

 

The film has its faults. Some of the scenes go on a bit too long. Moodysson, as a writer, is very good at making his point, but not quite as good as knowing when he’s made it and that it’s time to move on. But, you know, it happens.

 

The story reaches a peak when a boy enters the picture. Klara, who is the unacknowledged boss of the group (they always do what she tells them to, though they don’t realize that’s what they are doing), makes a decision as to which members of a punk band goes with which girl. This time Bobo isn’t happy with being told what to do and meets Klara’s love interest on her own.

 

When the truth comes out, well, fireworks. And just before their big debut in a nearby town arranged by a youth club.

 

Eventually, the two realize it’s chicks before dicks and they reconcile. And they have an ending to their story that is every teen’s dream. They play and aren’t that good. But they achieve the one thing that’s better than being good. They start a riot.

 

And they leave in triumph knowing that indeed, they are the best.

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