Reporting Jonathon Sharp
As a 13-year-old, I idolized the pop-punk band Blink 182. I’d dress like them, shout their songs in my broken, adolescent voice while mowing my parent’s lawn and I’d even orchestrate the events of my young love life so as to better understand their lyrics. In short, I was an idiot.
But I can’t say it wasn’t fun. I’d spend summer days skateboarding and pass the evenings doing stupid, Jackass-inspired stunts to make my friends laugh and adults hang their heads.
When I was a child, I thought as a child, the Apostle Paul said. And as I got older, I quit idolizing pop-punk superstars and started listening to (and even reading about) different artists – people like Fela Kuti, Werner Herzog and Brian Eno. As a result of this change, I couldn’t help but view my former love of punk rock as something juvenile.
So it was a with a smile of nostalgia that I watched The Other F Word – a movie about men who rocked like punks in their 20s and who now, in their 30s and 40s, are committed to being good parents to their kids while holding onto, and even instilling, their musical passion.
The movie wasn’t what I had expected.
I thought it might be about keeping one’s puck roots while being a parent. But the movie is something different – something moving and surprisingly sad, as well as long-winded and somewhat boring.
The film follows Jim Lindberg, who’s been the singer for the punk band Pennywise for nearly 20 years and whose curse-laden lyrics are seemingly just bits of a single sophomoric anarchist manifesto. He’s an old-school rocker from a time when punk was fresh, frightening and somehow culturally refreshing. But as the movie slowly shows, Lindberg, after pretending so long (with all the hair dye and forced F-bombs), is no longer the punk he used to be. He’s a dad to three.
*Spoiler Alert* Skip the next three paragraphs if you wish to remain in the dark.
The movie is based around an enormous event in Lindberg’s life – the moment he quits Pennywise. This event reflects the sadness of punk, or any sort of youthful idealism, in the fact that, for most of us, the burdens of life (putting food on the table, a roof overhead, starting a family, loving a spouse and the resulting offspring) outweigh the burdens of our dreams.
The movie ends up displaying Lindberg as an honest man wanting to show that his stage persona isn’t much more than a parody of his former self. Unfortunately, he comes off somewhat boring.
The movie doesn’t portray Lindberg as an artist. Instead, he’s an entertainer of teenagers well aware that the scene he helped start has changed significantly since he lent something to it. Ironically, the culture Lindberg sang against in his savage youth turned out to be the thing that hollowed out his music until it resembled nothing more scary or significant than a gutted stuffed animal.
Is the movie worth seeing? If you’ve ever liked punk rock music, then the answer is yes. One of the movie’s best qualities is that it gets so many puck faces on camera: Flea of the Chili Peppers, Mark Hoppus of Blink 182, Fat Mike of NOFX, Lars Frederiksen of Rancid, Art Alexakis of Everclear, and even Tony Hawk (of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater — the very game that got me into punk music!).
This collection of faces and stories lend the movie much of its emotion. In particular, Flea gives a moving story of his difficult childhood in which he left home at age 12 after realizing his parents weren’t there enough to raise him. To see him talk, troubled by tears, about his love for his daughter and the importance he places on his family is a very tender sight. And you’d be surprised to see how many people got into punk because their parents weren’t there for them or because adults abused them.
After hearing such stories, you view much of the anger in those earlier punk songs differently. On the other hand, you also realize how important it is to those wounded children to start successful families.
The Other F Word is a flawed documentary. Its main narrative is redundant and stale due to the unfortunate fact that Lindberg is boring on camera. Fortunately, the movie splits punk through the prism of many personalities, which give the movie much-needed stories, jokes, tears, perspectives, images and songs – all the small things, really.
The Other F Word is playing at the Lagoon Cinema. It’s directed by Andrea Blaugrund.