Behind the coming-of-age story featuring the misunderstood arty young man, the mid-life crisis movie has to be one of the most popular indie subgenres going. Even the particular punk-turned-dad spin was covered in documentary form by The Other F Word. But while there might not be much new in Lee Kirk’s Ordinary World, it’s a sweet little story in its own unassuming way.
More interesting to viewers my age, this marks the first leading role for Billie Joe Armstrong, and he does a pretty good job of it. In part, this is a role that’s all but made for him, in a sort of alternate timeline way. What if Green Day hadn’t caught on the way they did? That’s more or less what happened to Perry (Armstrong). And while waiting for that big break he met Karen (Selma Blair), and she got pregnant with Salome (Madisyn Shipman), and he started working in the family hardware store in Queens with his younger brother (Chris Messina) while the band went on “indefinite hiatus” for the last ten years.
In a way, Kirk’s script resembles a long-delayed coming-of-age story more than it does the usual mid-life crisis. Perry wakes up one morning, harried by all his usual chores, and finds that his family has forgotten his birthday. He throws an irresponsible party that his friend and former bandmate (Fred Armisen) blows out of proportion and brings down the ire of The Man. But instead of a house-ruining teen rager, it’s the presidential suite of a nearby hotel, and instead of angry parents it’s the hotel’s concierge (a surprisingly officious Brian Baumgartner).
I admit, the story doesn’t totally hang together. Why does Perry take a sudden windfall and throw even more of his own money after it to rent the suite? It’s one thing to show him making ill-advised decisions so that we can see his judgement improve, but this one sticks out as so ill-advised and unmotivated that it only makes sense because Kirk wants to play with the “rock band trashes a hotel room” trope.
Perry also doesn’t seem to incur any realistic penalties for his actions. In part this goes back to feeling a bit like an ’80s teen comedy, where the upper middle class parents can absorb the cost of whatever damage the kid has done. A multiple-thousand-dollar hit seems like it should be a bigger deal to a public defender and a semi-employed hardware store clerk with two kids.
But Armstrong has a sweet, slightly dopey affect that makes it hard not to like him. Which makes it hard not to like Ordinary World, despite its shortcomings. The whole movie takes on the same aura of ungainly charm that Perry gets from his thick-rimmed glasses and mussed, dyed-black hair. He may be a little late coming to some of these realizations, but you’re at least happy he got there eventually.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: fail.