The Other F Word Review
The title of the 2011 documentary The Other F Word actually refers to the role of fatherhood which we then see a variety of punk rock band members discuss and perform to the best of their abilities. The extraordinary thing about the film is that it manages to address a number of things at once. There's a brief outlining of the role of punk music in general and its specific place in Los Angeles. The seeming conflict between anti-authority feelings so associated with punk and the requirements of parenthood also becomes a major bit of subtext running through the entirety of the movie. Then, and most persuasively, comes the realization that The Other F Word concerns the greater obligations of being a father far more than it does the comparatively narrow idea of an adjustment from touring with a punk band to playing daddy at home.
The documentary seems to really come together near the end. Though this is hardly an inopportune place to peak, The Other F Word is fortunate to overcome what initially seems to be a lack of focus and an attempt to serve more purposes than it really should. The emotional catharsis that eventually occurs and ties it all together not only saves the film as a whole but acts as way of elevating it into a nearly profound look at breaking the cycle of bad parenting and dismissing the great number of prejudices that many tend to hold against those who look or act different from what society has deemed normal. The result, while always entertaining, slyly starts to form a message too. Even for non-parents and those who prefer furry, cuddly animals over the whines and cries of children, the film registers as hopeful.
Jim Lindberg, the (former) lead singer of Pennywise, wrote a book just a few years ago called Punk Rock Dad. In it, he apparently discussed the balance needed to act as both a father to three young girls and frontman for a very active, touring band which put on shows across the globe. This served as the genesis of Andrea Blaugrund Nevins' documentary The Other F Word. Though many, many other musicians are also featured, Lindberg becomes the main focus of the movie. His continued yet financially necessary absence in his daughters' lives begins to wear heavily on him. So much so that, by the end, a change is necessary. The singer's candid approach to being filmed is admirable. He doesn't shy away from the approaching middle age crisis and the need to disguise some of the physical hallmarks of aging through hair dye, a baseball cap and antacids. His professional life, and those of others in similar positions, shows nothing resembling glamour.
Interspersed throughout are interviews with a good number of punk musicians who also happen to be fathers. NOFX's Fat Mike has quite an interesting approach and wardrobe selection, but he, like basically all of the men who contribute to the film, seems to have a strong commitment to his child. Of special note is Flea, whose seemingly well-adjusted daughter is right there with him as he's being interviewed. The Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist even tears up at one point while discussing how meaningful his life became with her in the picture. Also worthy of mention are the rather raw interviews with Everclear's Art Alexakis, whose father abandoned him at an early age, and Duane Peters, the U.S. Bombs singer who lost his son in a car accident. The lack of pretension and general willingness to speak frankly on camera goes a long way here. The film would be a worthy diversion had it just kept things light, if meaningful, in interviews with those like Blink-182's Mark Hoppus, noted skateboarder Tony Hawk, and Rancid's Lars Frederiksen. But by inserting some unexpected emotion, The Other F Word finds itself and transcends the limiting notion of punk rockers becoming dads.
That said, there's also an abundance of kick-ass music and moments that should appeal to any fan of punk music. Other interviewees include one-time Black Flag lead singer Ron Reyes, Tim McIlrath from Rise Against and Tony Adolescent from The Adolescents. Even Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh is briefly heard from (with his best anecdote coming in the special features of this disc). Some Pennywise live snippets are included, as are a few behind the scenes moments with the band. With Jim Lindberg playing such a vital role in how the film is presented, all of the interaction with the band forms a kind of bubbling tension at times that functions as something separate, if still compelling, from the main feature. The fringe portions of the documentary contain hints of a band slightly imploding, where the front man no longer shares the rest of the group's ambitions. Lindberg says something particularly telling later on when he wonders whether his attempts at being both a good lead singer in a touring band and a good father to his kids has resulted in him being inadequate at both.
The gathering tides of The Other F Word ultimately function to switch its weaknesses into its strengths. From a filmmaking angle, that's quite a rewarding prospect, being able to nail the landing despite uncertain elements in the interim. That the documentary somehow draws an outline of the punk ethos and movement as it singles out how these middle-aged men that serve as its subjects can transition into a loving private life of fatherhood stands as a remarkable accomplishment. Possibly the greatest compliment that can be given to the film is that its circle of interest deserves to extend far beyond punk enthusiasts and to anyone who's ever had or thought about having children. It's amazing how much insight can be gained from a collection of dudes with bodies covered in tattoos and piercings who spend many of their nights yelling, screaming and cursing to adoring fans.
Oscilloscope Laboratories gives The Other F Word a home on region-free DVD in the U.S. It's a solid release, packaged in the label's usual all-cardboard and environmentally-friendly holder. The disc is dual-layered.
The 1.78:1 image is enhanced for widescreen televisions. It looks colorful and vibrant. The wide variety of sources used in the film translates into an expected lack of consistency, though it's certainly less dramatic than one might image. The progressive transfer handles it all well, just with varying degrees of sharpness and detail. Performance footage from Pennywise concerts, for example, are noticeably more muddy to look at and lacking in clarity. Since the majority of the film consists of newly recorded interview footage, it's a generally clean and effective picture which causes no concern.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio shines strongly as the punk soundtrack shakes the track a little against a comparatively subdued collection of dialogue. All in all, the music is louder than the interviews are (as perhaps it should be) but the balance remains reasonable. For a somewhat more subdued and even listening experience, there's also a two-channel English stereo track. Oscilloscope has provided optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired. They are white in color.
Extra features are quite nice here. From an audio commentary with the director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins, producer Cristan Reilly and subjects Jim Lindberg and Art Alexaxis to the multitude of outtakes, music videos and such, there's enough here to keep the feeling going far beyond the picture's running time.
The outtakes section contains some especially choice cuts. Watch Dr. Drew Pinsky's recollection (3:26) of being vomited on by Pennywise member Fletcher Dragge (with actual audio of the incident). Also here is a great story (4:03) by Mark Mothersbaugh involving Devo, Richard Branson and Johnny Rotten. Then there's an outtakes medley/compilation (4:21) (concluding with some unmistakable audio of urinating!) included as well.
A pair of acoustic performances from Tim McIlrath (singing "Swing Life Away") (4:48) and Art Alexakis (doing "Father of Mine") (3:42) deserve mention. There's also an amateur-shot video of the Q&A (14:52) following the film's premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival.
Music videos ("Living with Ghosts") (3:30) ("The System") (2:47) by Jim Lindberg's new band The Black Pacific have been included too, along with the film's original theatrical trailer (2:18).
Oscilloscope has additionally included trailers for its releases Gunnin' for that #1 Spot, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, Beautiful Losers, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and Bellflower.