Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Janie Jones vs. The Other F Word, two films about what happens when rock stars have kids.
Premise We should establish at the outset here that while Janie Jones and The Other F Word have similar themes—fatherhood being at odds with the rock-‘n’-roll lifestyle—there is one big difference between them: The Other F Word is a documentary, featuring actual rock stars with kids, while Janie Jones is fictional. From the trailer, it really seems like Janie Jones is our generation’s Somewhere: drugged-up, middle-aged performer finds out he has a tween daughter, attempts to connect with her, learns some stuff about himself in the process. The Other F Word is a more traditional documentary, it seems: all these dudes talking about various aspects of what it’s like to be a former anarchist who now has kids. We like our documentaries to bring a little something extra to the table—an unexpected twist, a strong voice, interesting graphics, something—and this one doesn’t seem to, so we’ll give it to the narrative film. Advantage: Janie Jones Cast Janie Jones stars Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin in the title role, along with Oscar nominee Elisabeth Shue as her mom and Alessandro Nivola as the rock-star daddy. There are some other people we recognize on the periphery—Joel David Moore, Brittany Snow, Frank Whaley—but the Breslin-Shue-Nivola trifecta is the one we care about. Three good actors anchoring a film is the way to go: not too many, not too few. The Other F Word filmmakers, on the other hand, seem to have suffered an embarrassment of riches: among the many punk-rock daddies featured in the film are blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, Everclear’s Art Alexakis, NOFX’s Fat Mike, Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh, skater Tony Hawk, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, and Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen. And besides those guys, there are a ton more! You have to edit, guys. If you feature that many dads, we can’t connect in any meaningful way with any one of them. Advantage: Janie Jones
Punk-Rock Bona Fides Janie Jones does a really good job of making Yale-educated Alessandro Nivola look like a strung-out rocker! (It’s mostly in the hair and eyes.) And there’s also a lot about the rock lifestyle they get right: the endless, anonymous parade of gigs, for one thing—we feel like we’ve done the exact same dazed walk through a club as Janie does at 0:30 in the trailer. But it’s hard to beat The Other F Word‘s actual rock stars. Also operating in The Other F Word‘s favor is that it’s being released by Oscilloscope Laboratories, the adorable indie operation run by the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch. They’ve actually put out some really great stuff: Wendy and Lucy, Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Messenger; and Yauch himself is still a pretty solidly cool guy. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for all the other guys featured in the doc: it’s been awhile since we associated Tony Hawk with anything other than fatherhood and massive licensing paychecks; while we love Mark Mothersbaugh, his “punk rock” cred probably went out the window when he wrote the theme for Rugrats; and even at the height of their popularity, blink-182 and Everclear were mostly enjoyed by 13-year-olds and adult-contemporary listeners, respectively. Still, NOFX, Pennywise, and Rancid were all fairly major players in the ’90s LA punk scene—we’ll grant that—and we will forever stand by our assertion that Flea is one of the best bassists ever, period. Advantage: The Other F Word
Heartwarming Stuff There is a very cute/cringe-worthy moment at 1:15 in Janie Jones, when somebody throws Ethan into a table in a club and Janie takes the stage to say, into the microphone, “Hey, Mister! How about letting go of my dad?!” Adorable, but can’t compete with real life: The Other F Word wins it, for what Flea says at 1:36: “The classic parent attitude with a kid, like, ‘I brought you into this world, I gave you life!’—it’s like, I just think completely opposite. My kids gave me life. You know? They gave me a reason.” Say it with us: awwww. Flea is really helping this movie clean up! We’re also, despite ourselves, a little charmed by the zebra-print bathrobe Fat Mike appears to be wearing for the entire duration of his role in the movie. Advantage: The Other F Word
The Other F Word was directed by Andrea Blaugrund, a lady director (!) who was nominated for an Oscar for her short, Still Kicking: The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies. She has a pretty limited résumé, though: besides the short, she directed a TV documentary about Katharine Hepburn in 1995, and produced Jane Pratt‘s talk show in ’93, but that’s about it. What’s she been up to for the last decade and a half? With Janie Jones director David M. Rosenthal, we have a better idea. He’s directed a couple of shorts and three other features: Dylan’s Run, a political documentary; See This Movie, starring Seth Meyers and John Cho; and, best of all, something in 2009 called Falling Up, which, now that we know it exists, we are putting on our Netflix queues immediately. It stars Joseph Cross (Milk) as a nursing student who takes a job as a doorman, has one of those hilariously bad packaging treatments, and co-stars Snoop Dogg and Rachael Leigh Cook. What’s not to love?! It feels a little weird to award this category to Rosenthal based on how much we want to see a movie he directed that isn’t Janie Jones, but we never saw Jane Pratt’s TV show, either, so. Advantage: Janie Jones
The Verdict The Other F Word has a cute premise—the bands whose music our parents confiscated in the ’90s are now parents themselves!—but judging from the trailer, at least, it doesn’t deliver on the wacky promise of an idea like that. In a world where The Osbournes is almost 10 years old (seriously: it premiered in March 2002), any new variations on this formula have to offer some kind of extra enticement. (We’re also put off by its current IMDb rating: 3.7/10, based on 61 votes. Yikes.) Though we’re a little wary of how similar it seems to Somewhere, of the two, Janie Jones is the one that looks like it might be at least a little bit surprising—for example, who knew that Breslin has a lovely singing voice? Winner: Janie Jones