No matter how fiercely they vow otherwise, even the folks most accomplished at raining invective and scorn on the mainstream’s hidebound, reactionary values are destined to join the establishment. Yet the disappointing new documentary The Other F Word still acts as if there’s something new or startling about countercultural types discovering the mundane wonders of mortgages, marriage, landscaping, and especially parenthood once they hit the brick wall of middle age. The film’s juxtaposition of punk-rock fashion and cozy domesticity proves neither comic nor revelatory. It is, however, adorable, though not adorable enough to compensate for the film’s damnable lack of focus.
The Other F Word follows an overly broad cross-section of punk rockers and punk-rock types as they discuss the contradictions endemic in trying to be responsible fathers and punk-rock badasses. At heart, the film is a coming-of-middle-age story about abandoning the petty rebelliousness of youth for the less-sensational but more substantive rewards of growing up. Punk-rock fatherhood is arguably too broad a topic for a single documentary, but the filmmakers don’t seem to find it broad enough: When Tony Hawk shows up, the film threatens to become a meandering look at wealthy fathers with vague connections to punk. F Word is strongest when chronicling the profound psychological changes fatherhood engenders; a brief but passionate monologue by Flea, delivered on the verge of tears, about giving up alcohol and drugs upon the birth of his child so he could be present for her in a way his parents never were says more about the life-changing powers of fatherhood in under 60 seconds than the rest of the film manages in 100 formless, sometimes self-congratulatory minutes.