Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{The Other F Word opened in Seattle on Friday, 11/18, and is screening at the Landmark Varsity theatre}

What is the other F word you ask? Turns out it's "fatherhood." What happens when the ultimate spreaders of an anti-authority message are forced to be voice of that authority as a parent? That's the question posed by this documentary that dives into the parenting challenges faced by aging punk rock frontmen. Having been a big fan of punk (though not hugely of all the bands portrayed) and of a similar age as the subjects, I've been interested in seeing the film since it played at SXSW 2011.

Since I missed it there, I practically jumped at the opportunity to check it out ahead of it rolling into town at the Landmark Varsity theater. Overall it's an entertaining film to watch. Some funny moments, great access, and interesting subjects — though mildly disappointing. Not because the film is bad, but because it left unexplored some the best parts of the premise.

The basics are none too earth shattering. For the men onscreen, having children changes everything. Trying to make a living in a business that requires you to tour 200+ days a year causes real pain in being away from your kids. Several of the guys mention having not-so-present fathers and are working hard to be there for their children. So far so good, although it's nothing you haven't heard before. But… the film misses the opportunity to really get into the juxtaposition between having a fuck-off attitude and whether they seek to either instill it in their children or fear passing it along.

Or, for example: how does a punk rock father deal with a kid that tells him he's got no authority over them? Their time on tour away from their kids isn't what makes the subject matter unique. People who have to travel to put food on the table and their conflicts aren't that hard to imagine. It's the rebellion as identity and how they reinterpret the punk rock ethos as they age that's the draw to the film. At least it was for me.

There are a collection of interviews with musicians, a really good look behind the scenes of what touring as a guy in your late 30's is like in one of these bands, and footage of everyone's family. The film's main subject is Jim Lindberg of Pennywise who has been touring for something like 20 years now. He is a compelling subject, so that works well. But most of his feedback is about how tough it is to be away from his kids. And the pressure from his bandmates to keep touring (it's suggested that he has more career options away from the band than they do). Interestingly enough I learned after seeing the film that Lindberg wrote a book about this subject a few years ago. I just picked up Punk Rock Dad with the hope that it will delve more into the details I'm most curious about.

Fundamentally, The Other F Word misses the opportunity to go deep into how they deal with being the authority figure when they've spent all the time saying fuck you to the man. But now they are the man. If they would have just followed up more on some of the best anecdotes it would have been a much more engaging film.  Such as the dad who describes accidentally  showing up for a school meeting with a "Fuck the Police" t-shirt. Or the observation by Fat Mike of NOFX that some parenting issues may be different when there's a dominatrix sporting a ball-gag tattooed the length of your arm.

Bottom line — interesting for the peek into their private lives. There are seriously cute moments like Flea recounting embarrassing his daughter and seriously touching/painful ones with Art Alexakis of Everclear describing his own childhood. So it's worth watching if you're interested in the the music or musicians. I just exited disappointed it didn't deliver more insight into the questions the film's premise (and marketing) so clearly point to.

A full list of the dads along with brief bios can be found on the film's website.