“The Other F Word” is a raucous, eye-opening, sad and unexpectedly wise look at veteran punk rockers as they adapt to the challenges of fatherhood. To be sure, watching foul-mouthed, colorfully inked musicians attempt to fit themselves into Ward Cleaver’s smoking jacket provides for some consistently hilarious situational comedy, but the film’s deeper delving into a whole generation of artists clumsily making amends for their own absentee parents could strike a resonant note with anyone (punk or not) who’s stumbled headfirst into family life. Theatrical release is a definite possibility; strong ancillary is a given.
It’s all but inevitable that every rebellious youth subculture will eventually grow up and join the establishment (baby boomers have been making hay of this tension for the past three decades), though few movements have been as violent in their repudiation of social norms as Los Angeles’ hardcore punk scene of the early ’80s. It’s almost a shock to the system, then, to see gray-bearded Ron “Chavo” Reyes, early frontman for the notoriously anarchic scene leaders Black Flag, carting his van-full of kids around Vancouver. And these shocks continue throughout.
“The cool thing about what I do for a living,” says Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, speaking for most of the film’s subjects, “is that the expectations for me as a parent are just so fucking low.” Some of those profiled, like Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Adolescents frontman Tony Cadena, were inspired by fatherhood to make wholesale changes in their lifestyles. Others, like NOFX’s Fat Mike and Total Chaos’ Rob Chaos, are still dyed-in-the-wool troublemakers. But the desire to buck these low expectations is a constant.
While she casts a broad net, director-writer Andrea Blaugrund Nevins has a perfect anchor in Jim Lindberg, frontman for 20-year-old Hermosa Beach, Calif., band Pennywise, and father to three angelic young daughters. There’s a charming irony in the sight of the man who once had a radio hit titled “Fuck Authority” laying down the law on his kids’ use of the expletive “turd-head,” but on the whole, Lindberg seems an almost boringly normal suburban dad.
The key difference, however, is that Lindberg has to leave his family for months on end in order to maintain this comfortable domesticity; with album sales royalties a distant memory, constant touring is the only reliable source of income most of these men have. Lindberg remembers his traveling-salesman father missing his Little League games, and openly wonders if it’s even possible to be a decent father and a rock star; he eventually decides it isn’t.
While the first half of “The Other F Word” alternates between cuteness and sweetly rude comedy, Nevins manages to steer her subjects into rather dark territory without allowing the film to become a succession of sob stories. Most of the punkers here only gravitated to the scene in search of a surrogate family after growing up with absentee or disinterested fathers (many were teenage runaways, or in Flea’s case, a preteen runaway), and some can get downright poetic in describing the childhood scars that make them stick around for their kids. In particular, U.S. Bombs bandleader Duane Peters relates a story that will leave most viewers in tears.
Edited with an appropriately hyperkinetic style that will be familiar to anyone reared on skate videos, pic is good-looking and briskly paced. Archival footage and a wealth of vintage punk on the soundtrack (credits include a shout-out to the “totally bitchin’ lawyer who schooled us on fair use”) help complete the picture.