With Green Day’s album Revolution Radio having recently hit the market, it seems only fitting that the feature film Billie Joe Armstrong (lead singer of Green Day) starred in would release not too long afterwards. But what exactly are the results of Armstrong’s adventure into movie territory? Well, he fits the movie’s plot and character of a lovable, mid-life crisis, former rock star well, but the rest of the film just serves up a fairly by the numbers story of a family man recalling better days.
Ordinary World stars Billie Joe Armstrong as Perry. Once a former lead in a rising band, Perry has since become a forgetful family man that hearkens back to the good ol’ days of rock and roll. When wife Karen (Selma Blair) forgets that it’s his birthday, Perry decides to take the day off of work from his menial hardware store job and throw a party at a fancy New York City hotel. However, things quickly spiral out of control when he tries to juggle the party he’s supposed to be enjoying with the day’s responsibilities that he kept forgetting to take care of.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. This film was originally called Geezer, but was changed to Ordinary World to fit Billie Joe’s recent song he wrote for the new album. Geezer was a better name. Now that I got that off my chest, there’s a lot of really good things tumbling around throughout the run of this feature. First and foremost is Armstrong himself, who commands the screen surprisingly well, especially when you consider this is his first time in a leading film role. Considering the fact that Armstrong himself is an aging rocker, he serves as a great choice for the lovable loser of Perry’s character. Funny, relatable and sympathetic from beginning to end, Armstrong’s charm helps overshadow the moments where Perry becomes a bit too much of a punching bag for the film to have at.
In addition, Ordinary World is home to good dramatic scenes and lighthearted moments of humor that balance each other out nicely. One moment, there’s a scene where Perry’s friends invite over a stripper and he immediately starts going into “Dad Mode” and forgets all about the beautiful woman stripping in front of him. The next moment, Perry is going through a rough patch with his brother, one that could alter his job situation forever. When there’s a good mixture of heart and humor, films work out nicely, and this is definitely another area where Ordinary World shines.
On the other side of things, there are the side characters, who are some of the film’s biggest weaknesses. Perry’s friends are extremely one-dimensional and they are given no time to truly develop. They’re just there one second and gone the next to solely focus on Perry again. For example, Judy Greer’s character of ex-girlfriend Christy feels like a largely missed opportunity for the actress’s persona to shine, as she’s given a low-key role of the grown up former lover compared to Perry’s man-child ego. Sure, Greer isn’t as wasted as she was in Jurassic World, but her witty identity could have used a much better script to work with.
For a film focused on the values of family, we’re given very little to see out of wife Karen and their daughter Salome (Madisyn Shipman.) On one hand, they do have a couple nice scenes towards the end of the film, but Perry’s story is the sole purpose of this movie, and it appears to be that all the other character were just squeezed in as an afterthought. I wanted more time with the family to see why Perry was still so dedicated to them, even with him so despondent over losing his former rock life. They all do get together to have some sentimental moments at the film’s resolution, but it didn’t feel like the punch it could have been because Karen and Salome weren’t in the narrative nearly enough.
Overall, Ordinary World feels a bit like a film that wants to be Once or Begin Again. The heart is there, the actors are game and ready, but it never quite leaps to the scales of other rock musician stories. That doesn’t mean this film is mediocre, far from it. I’d still recommend a watch, if just for Billie Joe Armstrong’s likable performance. But in future projects, I hope Armstrong is given a more flowing feature to work with. There are rumors circulating that Armstrong could be playing the St. Jimmy persona in the American Idiot feature film, so that could just be right around the corner.