Billie Joe Armstrong might be Green Day's snarling lead singer. He's also a 44-year-old husband with two teen sons.
“Ordinary World” might feature a few new Armstrong rockers. It’s all about the middle-age blues.
Only the film’s palette is powder blue at best. The story’s dramatic moments are so watered down you’d think growing older is as easy as writing a two-minute song.
The Green Day vet acquits himself well in his first major screen role. Next time, he needs to challenge himself with a screenplay worth moonlighting from his day job.
Armstrong plays Perry, who once got thisclose to fame with his punk rock group. Now, he works for his brother’s hardware shop and plays Mr. Mom to his daughter and infant son. Momma (Selma Blair) brings home the bacon. That leaves Perry adrift, unsure where he fits in. And that’s before his family forgets his 40th birthday.
So when Perry’s brother (Chris Messina) simultaneously fires him and gives him a generous parting gift, the ex-rocker decides to live it up.
FAST FACT: Billie Joe Armstrong studied acting with writer/director Lee Kirk for nine months to prep for his role in “Ordinary World.”
He rents a luxury suite and invites his old mates to join him. Only Perry’s heart just isn’t into it.
And … that’s more or less your movie.
Sure, Perry has a conventional dustup with his inlaws and “misplaces” his daughter’s guitar. The film’s idea of dramatic tension is whether Perry’s wife will be a little mad or mid-level angry at his birthday shenanigans.
It’s hard to say if Armstrong needs more on-camera seasoning. You can blame the screenplay for him occasionally looking lost. He’s certainly appealing for much of the film’s running time. He’s a doting dad and concerned husband, and he looks right at home in both modes.
The film’s lack of dramatic urgency is profound. Perry squanders significant cash, but there are no real repercussions. He destroys property and yet he shrugs over what it might mean to his family.
Even the film’s marital squabbling is so minor it could be patched over with a bouquet of droopy flowers.
‘You don’t have to be an aging rocker to feel the sting of middle age malaise.’
That leaves the comedic elements, which range from mildly inspired to wan. Writer/director Lee Kirk scores with some sly observations how fathers reluctantly bond. The rest of the humor is either predictable or barely worth a grin.
Fred Armisen, a reliably laugh getter, doesn’t get much to do as Perry’s ex-band mate. The ebullient Judy Greer shows up as an old flame, but the role is so devoid of texture there’s little even she can do about it.
And then there’s Perry himself. He should be in crisis mode. He’s turning 40 and realizes he’d rather take a nap than party with his pals. Yet he greets the realization with one of many sighs.
There’s ripe material to be explored here. You don’t have to be an aging rocker to feel that middle age malaise. Any grown man with a wife and kids knows the drill.
What happens when you realize a successful diaper change might just be the highlight of your day? Now, top that with a guy used to groupies and adulation, and you’ve got enough material to fuel a whole season’s worth of angst.
Not with this “World.”
“Ordinary World” simply can’t excavate the emotions that life transition entails, despite the marketing to the contrary.
Armstrong contributes a number of solid rockers to the soundtrack. His best achievement is an acoustic ballad that hints his character could be turning an artistic corner.
Consider that another unexamined path in this disappointing indie.
HiT or Miss: Billie Joe Armstrong delivers a convincing lead performance in “Ordinary World,” but the story lacks the storytelling hooks to make it rock.