Have you ever wished that a middle-aged white man from the Orange County suburbs was sitting next to you on a plane, telling you how much he loves his kids and showing you snapshots and home movies on his iPad? You haven’t? Then the movie The Other F Word is not for you. The bulk of this rambling, 99-minute documentary about West Coast punks who have children is crushingly banal, and the remainder is given to tearful descriptions of absent fathers, childhood traumas, and accidental deaths. Save your money and go to an AA meeting instead.
Though old folks including Ron Reyes (Black Flag), Brett Gurewitz (Bad Religion), Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo), and Flea appear on camera, The Other F Word prefers the Warped Tour version of punk to the punk version of punk. The main theme is some sappy, auto-tuned thing by Against Me! about nostalgia for the teen years, and the figures who get the most camera time are Pennywise singer Jim Lindberg, Art Alexakis of Everclear, and the guy from Rise Against. The idea of punk as a demand for social change is out, as is any political, economic, historical, or even musical context. (Vietnam and Nixon are briefly alluded to as bad things that happened.) Instead, the documentary gives punk the Dr. Phil treatment, presenting child-rearing as a way for wounded men to heal themselves and become the fathers they never had. According to this version of the story, the only thing you need to know about punk is that people got into it because their dads were real dicks.
Art Alexakis in The Other F Word
Roughly the first two-thirds of the movie records doughy white men sitting around with their families in drab suburban dwellings (not surprisingly, Flea and the guy from Blink 182 have the nicest houses) and extra-large SUVs. The crew also follows Jim Lindberg on a miserable 7-month Pennywise tour, during which the singer talks to his family on Skype when he is not wearily greeting another audience or dyeing his beard with Just For Men in an Econo Lodge bathroom. In the last third, the movie kicks into high pathos: Flea, Art Alexakis, Fat Mike, and Tony Cadena speak bitterly about their parents’ neglect, and Duane Peters talks about his son’s death in a car accident. There is much acoustic balladry.
It’s hard to know what the point of The Other F Word is supposed to be. The subjects don’t have much to say about fatherhood, except that it is good and important, so you’re left contemplating a series of shots of men with neck tattoos annoying their children. Fat Mike of NOFX farts in the van on the way to school, boring his daughter. The guy from Rise Against busts out his acoustic guitar and makes his daughter sing one of his songs while she’s trying to use the computer. Drummer Josh Freese uses a shit-filled diaper to play catch with his kids. The camera lingers on all of these interactions as if they were surprising and sweet, but the effect is merely depressing, as all home movies are.
The guy from Rise Against bothers his daughter
When Lars Frederiksen of Rancid takes his toddler to the playground in bondage pants and an “I HATE PEOPLE” shirt, the effect is supposed to be heartwarming and “humanizing”: look at this terrifying punk monster, playing sweetly with his child! He’s just like you and me. But the punk dress style, now at least 35 years old, is worn by infants, athletes, real estate agents, U.S. Marshals, and dowdy old pensioners. No one who has visited a city the size of Little Rock, Arkansas should be surprised to see a flabby man with a Mohawk pushing a stroller, much less view it as a heroic achievement. Do aging punks really deserve praise for spending time with their spawn? So what?
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