This “coming of middle age story” attempts to illustrate the impact that raising children has on the lives of aging punk rockers. The documentary’s titular “F word” thus stands for “Father”, which is suitable as female representatives of the genre are noticeably absent. The subjects are all members of U.S. punk bands, most of which are from the Epitaph Records roster, and thus their “punk” status is up for debate (at least it was 15 years ago when I cared about such things). The primary focus is Jim Lindberg, the Pennywise founder whose 2007 book Punk Rock Dad: No Rules, Just Real Life obviously served as the inspiration for this project. Lindberg is a normal looking guy who doesn’t need to worry about fitting in and can instead concentrate on more pressing matters such as his receding hair line and graying facial hair. On the other hand, secondary subjects like Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen and NOFX’s Fat Mike maintain the culture’s audacious look, forever fated to stand out in the crowd. The former has settled down in San Francisco where he admits to blending in, but Fat Mike and his wife have refused to change their post-daughter lifestyle in any manner other than their wake-up times. He discusses how they still use drugs and engage in the shenanigans that they’re known for and thus scenes of him dejectedly preparing breakfast for his child provide what amounts to the film’s limited subtext (his brief appearances are honestly so interesting that he easily deserves a film of his own). Other interview subjects include members of The Adolescents, Bad Religion, TSOL, Total Chaos, U.S. Bombs, and Everclear (?). Mark Mothersbaugh and Flea appear as intelligent elder statesmen, the latter of which breaks down in tears when discussing his daughter. Brief interviews with the seemingly well-adjusted punk offspring themselves are humorous, but it’s hard to not feel at least slightly sorry for them due to the unnecessary attention forced upon them by their parents’ appearances.
While the basic premise is sound, the majority of the film is spent on a pretty wide variety of tangents. The film opens with punk veterans who should know better providing vague definitions of the genre that could have been plucked out of clueless local news reports from the late 70s. Lindberg packs for tour, gets a tattoo, and is featured in an extensive amount of live footage accompanied by an on-screen counter for the elapsed tour dates. There are additional montages aplenty that cover oft-treaded topics like the dark side of Vietnam-era suburbia, what it was like “back in the day”, and the impact of file sharing on record sales. These sequences utilize stock footage in the most typical of manners and are often accompanied by on-screen sing-along lyrics to the soundtrack in Hot Topic font (an institution that takes its well-deserved lumps in the film courtesy of a sole journalist who is forced to stand alone since the Spencer Gifts-like outlet for all things “modern” and “subculture” supports all of the bands that are included in the film).
The sincerity of the punk fathers’ words is often infectious, but detours that include failed pregnancies, past sexual abuses, and daddy issues (which you’d think would serve as interesting parallels for the topic at hand) often fall flat and feel like simple padding. Some punks will surely check out as soon as a member of Rise Against states that “Pennywise are one of the pillars of punk” while others will sit transfixed as they await the inclusion of “Bro Hymn”, which does indeed appear in the film. Twice.
The Other F Word opens Friday at the Ritz at the Bourse. Look for a cameo by 30th Street Station.