The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Other F Word
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea holds on to a little bit of punk attitude while still chilling with his daughter.

If you're a parent, I'm guessing you know just what a life-changing experience having a child is. Personally, I found that becoming a dad gave me a sense of clarity I never had before; I felt like I understood much more fully the kind of person I wanted to be. Parenthood is so powerful, in fact, that it can completely soften even the most radical of individuals – like punk rockers. The Other F Word is a documentary devoted to showing how some of punk's most anarchic personalities evolved into dedicated dads.

Director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins interviews a wide variety of rockers, including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mark Hoppus from Blink-182, Art Alexakis from Everclear, Tim McIlrath from Rise Against, and Lars Frederiksen from Rancid. They talk about maintaining the balance between living a rock-and-roll lifestyle and trying to be a good role model for their kids. The challenges are many: they miss their families while out on the road touring; they have to explain their often unusual tattoos; they get funny looks when they show up for parent-teacher conferences. Fat Mike from the band NOFX talks about how he and his wife try to indulge in their “drug use and sexual perversions” without it negatively affecting their young daughter. Hoppus laments having to buy the clean version of his own CD for his offspring to listen to.

The dad we see the most of is Pennywise's Jim Lindberg. Married for 21 years and with three daughters, he is pressured by his bandmates into touring much more often than he would like. Going out on the road over 200 days a year causes him to miss recitals and holidays. When he tells his fellow (childless) musicians he doesn't want to hit the road anymore, they lay a guilt trip on him. It's almost as though he has two families. Lindberg's situation is really at the heart of the film, as it illustrates the essential struggle between the punk rock lifestyle and domesticity. If you're a fan of Pennywise, you know how Lindberg eventually resolved that struggle.

The fathers we meet in The Other F Word all came from a music scene where excess was the order of the day. Substances were consumed, rules were broken, and establishments were rebelled against. Much to their own amusement, they are now the establishment. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of these rockers had abusive or absentee fathers. (Alexakis famously wrote “Father of Mine” as a scathing criticism of his dad.) Most of them express a desire to give their kids the kind of childhoods they themselves never had. We sense it was their own troubled upbringings that led them down the punk road to begin with.

I found the comments these men make to be both entertaining and identifiable. Their stories are often humorous; a few are kind of sad. In that sense, the film's 100-minute running time flies right by. You get caught up in the astounding candidness with which they open up to the camera. If anything, I wish the movie had pressed a little harder. Some tough questions go unasked. How do they address the issue of substance abuse with their kids? Has family life changed how they deal with groupies, or do they cheat on their wives while on the road? How will they explain their angry, politically-charged lyrics once their children are old enough to understand them? The director stops short of asking these things. As a result, her documentary is a fun watch, but not necessarily something with a whole lot of depth beyond the obvious “kids changed my life.”

Even so, I think any parent will find things to relate to, and that makes it worth seeing. The Other F Word ends with Jim Lindberg waxing philosophical about the goal of punk rock, which was to change the world. He then draws a powerful connection between that goal and parenthood, suggesting that they are more complimentary than they seem. And he's right. Sometimes the most radical of actions come in the most old-fashioned of packages.

( out of four)

The Other F Word is unrated but contains copious amounts of adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

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