Film Review: The Other F Word

Tired conformists or still staunch rebels, whatever you may think of these punk rockers turned parents, this lively, affecting documentary is a highly worthwhile, often hilarious investigation into the ultimate contradiction.

A father’s loving arms picking up his child is a familiar, heartwarming sight, but in The Other F Word there’s a twist—one of Daddy’s extremities has a tattoo of a dominatrix tied up, with a ball gag. This image basically distills the conundrum of the film, which profiles a number of punk rockers who have become fathers in middle age. Then there’s the case of the man who attended a meeting with his daughter’s school principal wearing an obscenity-covered t-shirt. “I never expected to be around this long,” another says, and most concur that the thrashing violence of punk rock is more suited to one’s wild 20s than later years.

Writer-director Andrea Blaugrund Nevins has fashioned a gloriously entertaining, quite moving and really informative profile of these musicians as well as the scene from which they sprung—L.A.’s notoriously violent punk scene of the late 1970s to ’80s—and continue to ply. Jim Lindberg, of the skate-punk band Pennywise, emerges as the de facto star by dint of his dominant onscreen time, but also for the man’s searing honesty and charming humor. “Gotta keep the dream alive,” he mutters as he applies black hair dye to graying locks before setting out on a tour which will keep him from wife and daughters for the majority of a year. More than any other filmmaker, Nevins captures the hell of being on the road for a band lacking superstar status, with its economy flights, questionable hotel food (Lindberg tries to identify what’s on his plate at one point) and odiferous, man-filled buses. (“It smells like a combination of farts, feet, ass and maybe balls.”)

Others interviewed include Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh (who describes his métier, “No matter what you say, it’s all Spinal Tap”), Fat Mike (the possessor of the aforementioned tat who wonders how you explain that to a kid, and announces that he never, ever goes onstage not drunk), Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea (especially touching, reminiscing about his disapproving, unavailable father—something many of the men here tellingly share—and surprisingly playing a classical piano piece with his daughter), Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, skateboard star Tony Hawk, and the much-admired Ron Reyes of the seminal punk band Black Flag, who just walked away from the business in order to raise a family.

These punk-rock dads address the inescapable accusations of selling out (“Fans say selling an MP3 for 99 cents is a rip-off as they sip their $3.99 crappy coffee from Starbucks”), but in the end, Lindberg, who after 20 years decides to quit, much to the dismay of his still hard-partying band, sums it up best of all: “Maybe the most punk thing of all is to be there for the kids.”