Review: The Other F Word
June 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In Anthony Burgess’ novel “A Clockwork Orange,” the violent protagonist, Alex, has a much different ending than in the probably more-widely experienced film. In the notorious 21st chapter — which wasn’t even available in the U.S. for about 20 years after the book was released and which the film ignored — the wild boy does something unexpected. He grows up.
In the sweet and brutally honest film “The Other F Word,” any number of possible Alexes are presented for us to get to know. Their common link? They are all punk rock dads, but not only that — they all come from varying degrees of dysfunctional nightmares far too common in the childhood of my generation, the kind of home lives that victimize you, push you into the position of self-destruction and blame you for what’s been done to you.
The other thing they have in common is that they all moved past what had been laid out for them and made their own lives, largely through the experience of being dedicated parents.
The main focus of the film is on Jim Lindberg, lead singer for Pennywise for the last 20 years who is facing his own parenting demons — absence. He didn’t plan to make a career of being in a punk band, but it happened and, like any father looking to provide for his family, he goes with the opportunity. But now it’s taken over his life, especially given the economic realities of the music business in the 21st century that demand even the most modestly successful bands constantly tour to maintain a nice upper middle class lifestyle. He just wants to be there for his kids.
Lindberg’s struggle is shared with plenty of other dads featured in the film, including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tim McIlrath from Rise Against the Machine, Ron Reyes from Black Flag, Tony Adolescent from The Adolescents, Lars Frederickson from Rancid, and others. But there is also the larger question — how did they move from rebelling against the system, sometimes violently, to being as much a part of it as any other family?
Director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins traces this journey and, more importantly, demonstrates how a generation of misfits was able to take all their parents’ mistakes and use them as a primer for what to do when you find yourself with kids. It becomes the ultimate revenge, in a way, turning out to be a model citizen with great children.
One great strength of Nevins’ film is that any walls between the realm of disreputable bohemian kids and the rest of the world is torn down in the name of unity — revelation to the world, these guys aren’t much different from any other dads, and you don’t have to necessarily be a punk, ex or current, to see yourself and your friends in their stories. In an era where the popular culture is devoted to the portrayal of the man-child, it’s refreshing to see a portrait of those who pushed back the mainstream as the grown-ups in the room. These guys are happy to let go of their adolescence and be the grown-up. They’re happy to center their life around their kids. They’re happy to channel their energy into changing the world not through song, but through parenting.
And that may be the greatest revelation in this film — parenting can be as much an act of revolutionary creativity as any artwork. As Lindberg muses, it may be the most valid way to change the world. “The Other F Word” is a touching celebration of the guys with rough edges who wanted to change the world, and then grew up and figured out how to actually do it.