Sunday, October 30, 2011

In Andrea Blaugrund Nevins' THE OTHER F WORD, punk rockers turn dads. Oh, my.

The idea of punk rockers, those anti-authoritarian, obscenity-screaming fellows from -- when was it? the 80s? -- becoming not just fuckers but fathers (THE OTHER F WORD that also serves as the title of Andrea Blaugrund Nevins' new documentary) probably seemed nearly foolproof as a jumping off point for a film that wants to explore two very different states of being that must now somehow work together. Wow: just imagine! Punk rockers as fathers. What would that be like? It's a cute idea, worth a chuckle and a moment's pause. But a 98-minute movie? Yes and no.

Ms Nevins (pictured at left) seems amazed, again and again, by the whole idea. Well, she's young, so why not? TrustMovies, being old (and already a father by the time the punk scene hit New York) was not surprised by much of anything he saw in the movie -- funny, charming and moving as some of it is. Nor, he suspects, will any parent be surprised by the fact that fatherhood (and, hey, motherhood, too) changes your life more than any other single thing that happens (except death, of course). This is true for everyone from architects to zoologists and includes punks, heavy metalists, alternative rockers and the crooners like Como and Crosby from decades past. If parenthood does not change your life, reordering certain priorities rather drastically, then something's wrong and you probably oughtn't to have become a dad or mom in the first place.

So despite the jiggering of punk and parenting, a lot of viewers will, after a time, be asking, "Yes?  And...?"  And while Ms Nevins' decision to use tons of stylistic touches does make the movie look slicker, these add little to its depth -- which rises and falls on the many interviews (maybe too many) with various rockers that the film includes. The longest and most in-depth of these involves Jim Lindberg (above), lead singer of the skate punk band (I'd never heard that term before) Pennywise, whose book about being a punk rock dad brought the idea for the documentary to original life.

We see and hear from a number of other punks, too: Michael John Burkett (aka Fat Mike, shown above with his daughter, of NOFX), Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 (shown with his son, two photos below), Lars Fredriksen (of Rancid, shown from waist down with his son, in the photo at bottom), Ron Reyes (of Black Flag), and Flea (of the Red Hot Chile Peppersshown below, with his daughter), among a cast that includes some 27 musicians.

Some of what we hear is quite interesting, some of it, not so much because it's a little too expected. Fortunately, Ms Nevins turns her attention from parenting to how these bands still eke out a living -- in the age of the internet when content is more and more expected to come free. Notes one interviewee: "Our fans think nothing of paying $3.95 at Starbucks or paying big money for a pair of Nikes -- but they go crazy and call us sellouts of we make a commercial for Nike or charge 99 cents to download a song!"

About as crazy as these guys currently get can be seen as Josh Freese tosses a dirty diaper back and forth with his son in the backyard. So many of these musicians had either abusive or missing-entirely parents that it seems a wonder that more of them did not turn out like that. Instead, they seem remarkably good role models. (Or at least they've managed to keep their worst habits off-screen.)

The Other F Word would seem a shoo-in for new or prospective parents and especially for fans of punk rock. While Nevins' stylistic tics do get trying, there's enough in the film to hold your attention -- unless, of course, you have zero interest in either parenting or punk. The movie opens this Wednesday, November 2, in New York at Film Forum and on Friday, November 4, in Los Angeles at the NuArt. A dozen other cities are scheduled to open the documentary in the weeks to come. Click here to see them all, with theaters and playdates listed.

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