Everyone hates getting older, but for those that have aligned themselves with anti-conformist subculture of punk rock entering into a world of marriage, children, and a career can be a challenging transition. That’s the theme at the center of Ordinary World, the new film from writer-director Lee Kirk, which stars Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day as a husband and father trying to cope with life after his glory days of playing in dingy dive bars with his drunken cohorts. As hard as the film tries to present an earnest examination of this life coping with transition, it’s entirely undone by having a lead character that is so astoundingly stupid and selfish that empathy is elusive for the audience.
When we first see Perry (Armstrong) he’s alongside his drunken bandmates – including Fred Armisen and Kevin Corrigan – before playing a show in 1995. When we next see Perry, he’s awaking from his slumber only to realize that he’s forgotten to put out the trash. Perry is quite forgetful, as we’ll see further and further as Ordinary World continues. One thing, however, he hasn’t forgotten is the fact that today is his birthday, a fact that seems to have been lost his wife Karen (Selma Blair). Before departing for work, Karen provides Perry with a laundry list of things to do, including picking up a guitar for Salome (Madisyn Shipman) for her talent show and unlocking the house on his lunch break for his incoming in-laws.
Late to his job at the family hardware story where he works with his brother Jake (Chris Messina), Perry is feeling a crushing listlessness about his current life, often drifting off in his mind to the past triumphs. Sensing this, Jake gives his brother $1,000 and the day off, which Perry uses to book an expensive hotel room and throw himself a birthday party. As his friends, including former bandmate Gary (Armisen), arrive, the duties that Perry has forgotten about come calling, rushing to let his in-laws (John Doman and Mia Dillon) and picking up the guitar he left at work. In his absence, the party at the hotel has started gaining steam, his friends ordering room service and raiding the minibar. Meanwhile, Perry runs into an old flame at the hotel (Judy Greer), who is the manager for punk icon Joan Jett (who has a very brief cameo). Trying to recapture the rebellion of his youth leaves Perry in a situation where he’s facing consequences for his dereliction of responsibility.
As much as Kirk wants you to extend a level of sympathy towards Perry, his screenplay makes it pretty much impossible to care for such a selfish, irreconcilably stupid character. Within minutes of the film’s brief 90-minute running time, we’re witness to the character accepting and forgetting tasks with increasingly regularity. It’d be one thing if bad luck intervenes and were distract the character, but he unconsciously goes through this one day in an oblivious stupor that is so unrelenting it makes empathy something no rational person would extend to this individual. And yet the character’s stupidity isn’t even mined for the slightest comedic effect, instead just a series of selfish actions that are simply excused because he’s in the throes of a mid-life crisis.
Billie Joe Armstrong isn’t a particularly strong actor. His actions rarely come across as naturalistic, as the task of acting is apparently always on his mind. Yet for all his failings as a leading man, Armstrong isn’t embarrassing in the role. Much of that credit, though, is given to his strong supporting actors, especially an eager Fred Armisen who sparks Perry’s party to spiral out of control. All supporting characters amble in and out of the narrative, placing Armstrong at the heart of every single scene of Ordinary World.
Unfortunately, Ordinary World is unable to tap into the universal themes of being uneasy growing up and accepting responsibility because its main character is just so aloof in everything that he does. The character operates as nothing more than a selfish doofus that only thinks of others after he’s already done the harm. Ordinary World lands as a crushing disappointment because it can’t make the audience care about its lead. Everyone has to grow up at one point. Everyone has forgetful moments. Everyone has irredeemably stupid moments. But not everyone has these moments happen in succession over the course of a single day. I really wanted to extend goodwill to Ordinary World, but its collision of the mundane and inane just wouldn’t let me.
- Overall Score
An almost fascinating portrait of a character coping with life after punk rock, Ordinary World is sadly underserved by its lead character’s astounding stupidity and selfishness.