As all you clever clogs have established by now, this is a film review/autopsy site and there is simply no room for me to stand my favourite bands on a pedestal at the top of Mount Olympus and give them a bloody good drenching in my own saliva BUT the release of a movie starring the frontman from one of the greatest rock bands ever has given me pause for thought and enough time to set up that pedestal.
Yes it’s Green Day, the band that every man wants to be in and woman wants to be on top of. I don’t need to tell you but just in case you’ve been living on the Moon, welcome back to Earth and the line-up of the good looking trio goes thus. There’s attractive frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong on lead vocals, lead guitar and lead songwriting; equally attractive bassist, Mike Dirnt who also dobs in with a bit of songwriting and their powerfully erotic and only slightly quirky drummer, Tre Cool whose not above doing a bit of songwriting himself. Green Day have gathered quite the ensemble since then, the longest runner being Jason White on rhythm guitar.
Green Day ARE one of, if not THE greatest rock bands of all time and that’s not a title I like to throw around like a Frisbee into a hippy circle. If we’re all being honest with ourselves, Green Day have been the inspiration for over 20 years of American Rock bands. You see, people listen to Green Day and think, ‘Wow, this band is great! I want to be as successful and amazing and handsome as they are!’ Then those with the actual balls and talent to carry it through end up becoming Blink-182, The Offspring, and so on then fans of those bands listen to their music and think ‘Wow, these bands are great!’ Etc, etc, etc. Then they become Fallout Boy, Sum 41 and All Time Low. I’m not knocking these bands and also not denying that their songs feature heavily on a special playlist on my I-Pod, I’m just saying that in this great family tree of American Rock, sitting at the top is Green Day. And anything before that started with Nirvana.
However, I feel that to truly understand ‘Ordinary World’ and the mindset of its main character, we must all go on a history field trip and it starts in the 90’s.
Green Day, as a band have been going since the prehistoric age of 1990. They did release a little something before then but personally, I don’t count it as it was the VERY early days and they were called ‘Sweet Children’. Their first official debut studio album was a little something called ’39/Smooth’ which I think was still going through the teething process while the band were still finding their feet.
One year and two ‘sort-of’ albums later, Green Day released ‘Kerplunk’ to wit an early version of a little song was placed. A song which would later follow them around wherever they went. That song is ‘Welcome to Paradise’. But the next album is what dragged these boys out of other people garages and onto the main stage.
Dookie was released in 1994 (the year I was born) and propelled the trio into recognition. Hits on the album consisted of the re-recorded version of ‘Welcome to Paradise, Longview, When I Come Around and Basket Case which alone spent 5 weeks at the top of the Billboard Alternative Songs Chart and warranted a Grammy Nomination for the band. On top of that, Green Day were asked to perform on the ‘Late Night’ circuit such as David Letterman’s show of which they became frequent contributors and each of them are equally entertaining because Tre Cool does something wacky every time. My favourite is ‘Waiting’ because he dumps a bag of flour over his head just after the bridge.
Another year goes by and another album comes out, ‘Insomniac’. It was no ‘Dookie’ but still has some fun songs on there such as ’86’, ‘Brain Stew/Jaded’ and ‘Walking Contradiction’. But, their next album is one of my favourites.
Nimrod came out in 1997 and contains some true quality in terms of music. ‘Hitchin’ a Ride’ is one of the top contenders for ‘Best Song Written and Performed By Anyone Ever’ followed closely by ‘The Grouch’, ‘Redundant’ and another little song which could arguably be the band’s most famous hit. And having a song like that attached to your name is no bad thing at all. I’ll come to that later.
Moving swiftly on because there’s a lot to get through. The eternity of three years went by and at the start of the new millennium, Green Day released ‘Warning’ and whilst the album was positively reviewed, this album marked the start of Green Day’s nosedive into temporary obscurity. I know it had nothing to do with the overall quality of the album because some of my favourite Green Day songs can be found right here. Where to begin? There’s ‘Warning’ which was somewhat of a change from their usual style but it’s not like I don’t appreciate it. Green Day are smart enough to figure out that if you release the same thing over and over again, people are going to get sick of it or the ‘Marvel Method’ as I’ve dubbed it. Then there’s ‘Waiting’ in a similar style to ‘Redundant’ and then there’s ‘Minority’ and let me just give my feeling towards ‘Minority’ in a quick hypothetical scenario. If I were to go deaf from stuffing my head up Green Day’s bottom and ‘Minority’ was the last thing that I heard from the colon, I wouldn’t feel so bad about it.
Four whole years come and go and in that time, American Punk enthusiasts were listening to the likes of Good Charlotte, Simple Plan and New Found Glory. All of which are great bands in their own right but there wasn’t a peep from everybody’s favourite rock band. Did this mean that Green Day were beaten? DID IT BOLLOCKS!
After four years in solitary confinement and a new election on the horizon, Green Day whipped out the black shirts, red ties and the eyeliner. That’s right, it’s 2004 and time for ‘American Idiot’, arguably Green Day’s finest hour. This album slapped the world in the face and told it to wake up to all the injustice, the first single of which does a great job.
‘American Idiot’ (the song) was positively received by critics who took it in it’s proper context, something that wouldn’t be done today. Any song released in this ‘feelings first, facts never’ society that uses the word ‘faggot’ in any context would be burned at the stake by #TeamSnowflake. This hard hitting 3 minute number has sold well over a million copies and has featured on a number of greatest songs ever lists including my own.
The album as a whole was deemed as a ‘Rock Opera’ because that’s what it is which basically means that when listened to back to back, the album tells a story which is great because it means there’s no filler, no padding, no flabbiness. Oh no, this album is tight and contained and in the mark of great songwriting, each song individually has it’s own message or can be interpreted it’s own way. Gold star.
In 2005, a documentary/live show DVD was released called ‘Bullet in a Bible’ which chronicled the the antics of the band whilst on tour along with Green Day playing live at Milton Keynes, England. I’ll tell you what, Green Day really can put on a show. They play the top favourites from the ‘American Idiot’ CD along with some old classics. The opening is the best. They come out to a track that I think was from ‘Star Wars’ and go straight into ‘American Idiot’. As soon as they finish, an explosion goes off and Billie Joe stands with his arms outstretched as 60,000 people go fucking crazy. Now I know why he wears his guitar so low because it would be hard to hide an adrenaline-stiffy that big.
All in all, ‘American Idiot’ sold 16 million copies around the world, produced 5 successful singles, won a Grammy for ‘Best Rock Album of 2005’, spawned a sell out tour and eventually was made into a Broadway musical. Fantastic. Kind of.
The thing is, where do you go from there? Once you create the best thing ever, it’s a little bit hard to top that.
That last paragraph probably sounded like I’m about to shit all over ’21st Century Breakdown’ but I’m really not. ‘East Jesus Nowhere’ and ’21 Guns’ are practically orgasmic and I’d happily take ‘Horseshoes and Handgrenades’ over anything Rita Ora ever did or is currently doing. All I’m saying is, once you’ve created perfection all you can do is more of the same with a bit of a twist and that’s ’21st Century Breakdown’ in a nutshell. In my opinion of course.
While I’m near the subject, I want to harp on the radio for a second. Not literally of course.
What with Green Day being so controversial with their words that have never hurt anyone, the radio is so fucking tight fisted with playing any of their tracks or at least it is with the station that I listen to anyway. The only one I’ve heard is ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ which is nothing short of fandabidozi because I love that song but they only play it because it’s the least controversial. No ‘American Idiot’, No ‘Holiday’, No ‘Minority’. Just that one song and one other Green Day song which I’m stalling from talking about.
Lately, I’ve been working in a confined space with nothing but the radio for entertainment and occasionally I’ll get solid gold like ‘Bon Jovi’ or ‘Bryan Adams’ or that one song from ‘The Calling’ but at all other times its, ‘Pink’, ‘Bruno Mars’, ‘Ed Sheeran’ or ‘Camila Cabello’ which achieve nothing except making me wish I could stuff my head up Green Day’s bottom and go deaf. I’ve got all my favourite songs on my I-Pod and I normally play that but the battery life only takes me roughly half way through my working day so once I shut it off to save some battery for the walk home, it’s either stand in silence or ‘96.5 Radio Bullshit’ with it’s cringy music, cringy adverts and cringy presenters. Readers in Blackpool, England will know which radio station I’m talking about. ‘Playing the best music mix for Blackpool and the Fylde Coast’. Watch out, 96.5 because I’m getting trading standards onto you lot. That statement is nothing short of a complete lie.
I’m going to be honest, I haven’t listened to anything post ’21st Century Breakdown’. I know they released a trio of albums and another studio album called ‘Revolution Radio’ in 2016 at the time Trump was running for President so I think I can sing along to that album without having heard it because I’ve been listening to that album through the news for 2 years and I’m bored of it.
The only thing I heard from Green Day after ’21 Century Breakdown’ was when Billie Joe ended up on the news when he had his little… lets call it a ‘moment’ at the IHeart Radio Festival in 2012. You’ve all seen the footage so there’s no need to bang on about it for too long but I do have mixed feelings about the whole thing.
On the one hand, it was fucking awesome and nothing to be ashamed of. Any public display of frustration that includes smashing a guitar and verbally slamming Justin Bieber is always good in my book. But on the other hand, it was a desperate cry for help from someone with a bad habit and it’s probably something we all should have seem coming. Rock stars having a problem with drink and drugs is just about as inevitable as the sun rising in the morning and days after the incident, a representative issued an apology and announced that Billie Joe would be entering rehab for alcohol and prescription drug abuse.
I’m just going to jump straight back onto the first hand and call out anyone who criticised Billie Joe’s outburst. Let me just remind you that in the early days, Green Day used to set fire to their equipment at the end of their gigs.15 years later, Billie Joe smashes one guitar and all of a sudden, they feel the need to apologise. Given the grand scheme of things and their previous behaviour, it could have been a lot worse. Now I’m going to bring both hands together and rub them backwards and forwards as I round this bit up. If it took this moment (which wasn’t all that bad) for Billie Joe to realise that he needed help then I’d say that it was a moment well worth having and I’m glad that he got the help that he needed and he’s better.
Anyway, now you know about Green Day’s success. Let’s talk about Billie Joe’s movie and why all the waffle above is relevant.
Billie Joe is not completely alien to the whole ‘acting’ thing. He’s had a few short cameo’s in some TV shows such as ‘Haunted’ and ‘Nurse Jackie’ in the latter of which, he had about 5 mins of screen-time before his character had an overdose and died. That’s a great way to make use of some talent.
Along with some small TV appearances, Billie Joe has also had some small movie cameos mostly as himself. His first on-screen character based performance was as Dennis in ‘Like Sunday, Like Rain (2014)’ and even though he’s ranked third in the casting line-up on Wikipedia, he’s only in it for about 20 minutes. Suppose that makes sense, he’s a busy man.
But this film, ‘Ordinary World’ (originally titled ‘Geezer’ but the name was changed because the makers realised that name was fucking stupid) is Billie Joe’s first full length title at top of the billing which puts a lot of pressure on him. Green Day fans will watch it (shut up) but what’s in it for everyone else who don’t listen to Green Day. What element will attract those two or three people?
There’s going to be a lingering question hanging over this review that I know you are all going to want me to answer. Is Billie Joe Armstrong a good actor? Well to answer that question, we need to run down the ‘good actor’ checklist with elements from the plot.
Number 1, give the actor a character that he can identify with. In ‘Ordinary World’, Billie Joe Armstrong plays Perry Miller, a middle aged rock star. I think the character may be based on him.
Well, the ‘middle aged rock star’ thing was a bit of an overstatement. Perry was in a band called ‘The Skunks’ which were very successful but due to the impending birth of his first child, Salome (Madisyn Shipman), Perry left the band before they went on tour with their first album.
Before we go on, I just want to say how fucking delighted I am that there are no references to Green Day in this film. There aren’t even any in-jokes or none that I could spot anyway and I was watching for them. It’s the writers showing awareness that this isn’t Billie Joe promoting Green Day, it’s the audiences fresh perspective on Billie Joe as an actor and I appreciate that move.
But what with Billie Joe playing the frontman of a band and him being a songwriter, Billie Joe did write 3 songs for the film but that’s fair enough. You don’t ask a plumber over to your house to do the wiring.
In the first 10 minutes, we learn that Perry was in a band and in the subsequent 20 years has developed a boring family life with his wife, Karen (Selma Blair) and he’s had another child, a little boy and I don’t know if this is me but I don’t they mention the baby’s name. In fact, it’s very clear to me that all of the effort has gone into Perry’s character because we hardly see the wife and kids. They’re in a few scenes at the beginning and towards the end. That’s it. The first 10 minutes are setting up his normal boring family life and then never mentioning it again in exchange for an exciting party that Perry is all normal and boring about.
When he’s not with his family, Perry works at the family hardware store with his brother, Jake (Chris Messina) which Perry has as little investment in as I do with healthy eating. That coronary is coming for me one day and I just don’t care.
Anyway, it’s Perry’s 40th birthday and Jake gives him $1000 straight from what I’m assuming is petty cash to go and have a party whilst simultaneously getting his mid-life crisis out of his system. Perry calls up his old band-mates and rents out a fancy hotel room for his birthday bash.
The events that follow lead us onto number 2 on the ‘good actor’ checklist. Can the actor handle moments of confrontation and conflict with any degree of believability?
There are two moments of confrontation or conflict before the finale.
When Perry goes back to work to pick up his daughter’s guitar for her talent show that evening, he discovers that his brother is trying to buy him out of the family business. Chris Messina’s performance was particularly good as I didn’t get the impression that Jake was trying to be the ultimate dick-bag of the century and fuck over his brother but his actions were more to help Perry because he knows that Perry hates his job. After discovering that Jake spoke to his wife before him, Perry’s reaction is nothing short of a stroppy teenager but that’s more to do with writing than actual performance. With that scene in particular, I felt Billie Joe’s performance was a bit half-hearted but again, I feel it’s more to do with the writing with no really heavy dialogue to help tone his acting muscles.
However, there is a moment later on when Perry goes home to let his in-laws into the house (Mia Dillon and John Doman). Whilst Walt, his father in law, criticises the lack of coasters (something the writers must have had on their mind all the way through the writing process because this film is fucking obsessed with them) and the state of Salome’s playhouse which Perry built himself, Billie Joe’s acting prowess shines through. Just through his mere expressions, we as an audience gather the entire reason for him throwing a party with his former band members and is kind of on the fence about having done so. Perry wants to return to the time when he wasn’t crap at everything and being moaned at for being crap. When he was a rock star, he was king and there was nothing to bring him down. But now, things have changed and he can’t stand living a life where he feels like he doesn’t belong. I got all that from Billie Joe’s performance. Acting through the face is harder than acting with words. Bravo, Sir.
When Perry returns to the party, he finds that it’s populated entirely by strangers and it’s all got a bit too rowdy for Perry as he goes for a lie down. Later on, In comes Christy (Judy Greer), his old girlfriend and manager of Joan Jett who makes a small cameo. To stop Christy from seducing him, he plays her a little song he’s been writing called ‘Ordinary World’ and is obviously one of the songs
that Billie Joe wrote for the film. This, I feel, would have been a good chance to get into the head of his character as he would’ve needed to write the song from his character’s point of view. It is a stark contrast to the song played at the start, instead is comes from someone who’s older and wiser and speaking from where he thinks he sits in the world. Although the song does feature on ‘Revolution Radio’ which I suppose fucks that up a bit.
Perry is called back into the party which is where somewhat of a character arc occurs. After finding out he has been replaced in his band by a younger and worse replica who couldn’t look more like a tosser if he tried, Perry tries to prove he’s still a rock star by trying to throw a TV out of the hotel window. When that fails rather embarrassingly, he switches to the default setting of rock-star behaviour and smashes his daughter’s guitar to pieces which may look familiar if anyone has seen a certain internet video… OK I’ll stop banging on about that. Deliberate or not, I don’t know but it is what rock-stars do so get over it.
Perry is arrested for throwing his party but let off by his friend, Dean (Rick Younger) whose part of the ‘Dad Group’ with two other dads and they want Perry to join. I can see why Perry wouldn’t want to be part of something called the ‘Dad Group’ because that means he’s officially middle-aged. Dean drives Perry to his daughter’s talent show but not before turning down an opportunity to restart his career with the help of Joan Jett. One might wonder why he didn’t just say ‘I’ve got to be somewhere right now but here’s my number, call me in the morning and we’ll talk’ but I suppose it’s part of the character arc.
You see, there’s a moment in the previous scene where Perry looks around at the people whilst his band is playing and he realises that he’s not that person anymore. He’s grown up. Evolved. He’s a family man with family responsibilities and being an over-grown man-child isn’t the way to move forward. I’m running with the assumption that Perry thinks that leaving the band in favour of raising his child was the wrong thing to do and he called all of his friends to re-immerse himself in that life that he loved but left behind. But after seeing his old friends again, he realises that he loves his family more than that life which is a nice concept so lets go with that.
The talent show brings me to the third and final point on the ‘good actor’ checklist. Can the actor bring forward emotion from the audience purely through performance alone?
Salome comes onstage with her dad’s guitar (because he smashed the other one) and sings a song that her dad taught her because she thinks that he thinks that it’s about him. That song is an acoustic version of the Paul Westerberg song, ‘Unsatisfied’. You know what? I’ll be damned if I wasn’t brought to tears by the look on Perry’s face which is that of a father beaming with pride and he does it so well.
The ending kind of wavers a little bit and pushes forward the most bullshit twist I’ve ever seen in a film. Perry must have done a lot of drugs in his rock star years because you’d think that anyone would know when their own birthday is. Turns out that day was not his birthday but the day after. I get why his brother didn’t put him straight because he actually wanted Perry to have a good time and work through whatever he had to work through but I wonder why his friends didn’t mention that his birthday wasn’t until the next day? Any excuse for a party, right? What with wrecking his daughter’s guitar, a hotel room and racking up thousands of dollars in damages, Perry’s made a bit of an arse of himself. His wife is pissed off but they make up at the end.
As ‘Ordinary World’ plays in the background, we see Perry trading in his guitar from the ‘good old years’ and getting a limited edition guitar for Salome whilst placing an advertisement for guitar lessons for kids, showing that Perry is moving forward with something that he would actually be good at and has some investment in. The family drive off to celebrate Perry’s actual birthday whilst listening to ‘The Skunks’. A nice happy ending all around.
Normally, I’d finish a review with a box office takings and how other people found it to be but ‘Ordinary World’ didn’t get a full on theatrical release. Rather it was shown at the Tribeca film festival and then picked up for a limited theatrical release and then digital release by Universal Pictures. I found the film on Amazon for the low-low price of £5.99. That’s in Pounds Sterling so I don’t know how much Americans will have to pay.
So I suppose two questions need to be asked now.
First, am I happy that I paid £6 for this film rather than spending the money on 12 Wispa Gold chocolate bars? Yes I am, good news for my waistline. Now for the second question.
Is Billie Joe Armstrong a good actor? I would say, yes. For a first time crack at a leading man, he’s pretty good. He played a good father with a good heart who had the best of intentions even if it didn’t always pan out that way. A nice, heart-warming character who I was rooting for all the way and that’s always a positive first time step. There are a few moments of shakiness but it’s not fair to criticise him for that as acting isn’t what he does for a living and like I’ve already said, it was a good effort.
Besides, I seriously doubt that Billie Joe is going to give up his day job for a career in acting. Glancing at his IMDB page, he’s not got anything in the pipeline so whilst Green Day still has a heartbeat, I think he’ll be staying right where he is.
Speaking of which. I missed out a song earlier and here’s why. It is the very reason why Green Day is my favourite band. Of all the loud, heavy, thrashy, tinnitus-inducing music that Green Day is famous for and what we all love them for, for a band to produce something as simple and magical and utterly spell-binding as ‘(Good Riddance) Time of Your Life’ is an achievement that far surpasses any accolade that this legendary band could ever receive. So there you go.
Finally, Finally. In doing my research for this article I found out a bit of trivia that I didn’t know but will share with you now and it’s probably going to date this article but I haven’t yet found out if I give a shit.
At time of writing, in 2 days, it’s Billie Joe’s birthday. So I’d like to finish this article by saying Happy Birthday, Billie Joe and many happy returns.