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You can’t accuse John Roecker’s documentary chronicling the band Green Days’ recording of their classic album American Idiot of being a quick cash-in project. Arriving eleven years after it was filmed and ten years after the album won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album, Heart Like a Hand Grenade emerges as an entertaining time capsule that, while not offering any particularly dramatic moments, should please the venerable rock band’s many fans. After its limited theatrical screenings the documentary should find its biggest audiences with its digital and DVD release next month.
Unlike so many previous behind-the-scenes rock documentaries that revealed the internal tensions within bands, this effort displays Green Day thoroughly enjoying themselves while recording their concept album. Although gregarious and witty front man Billy Joe Armstrong garners the lion’s share of the camera’s attention, bandmates Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool get their moments in the spotlight as well. That director Roecker is a longtime friend of the band no doubt accounts for the looseness of everyone involved.
Those looking for deep analysis into the band’s songwriting and recording process are likely to come away disappointed, with only brief moments illuminating their creativity. Rather, the film delivers an amusing fly-on-the-wall perspective highlighted by such segments as when Armstrong delivers a tongue-in-cheek lecture about how to drink responsibly.
The first tip is to “drink a lot of water,” advises the writer/performer who went on to have a well-publicized stint in rehab a few years later.
Armstrong also comments about the pretentiousness of recording a concept album—”When Led Zeppelin did Dark Side of the Moon…” he jokes—and provides an ironic foreshadowing of the album’s hit, 2010 Tony Award-winning stage adaptation when he notes, “It’s like Broadway at the end there,” about one of the songs.
One of the wittier segments features the band members using flash cards to display the album’s lyrics, in a direct homage to Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
The film also includes generous concert segments taken from the band’s first live performance of the album that justify the opening onscreen dictum to “Play this movie f—ing loud!”
Production: Crazy Cow Productions
Director/director of photography: John Roecker
Producers: Billie Joe Armstrong, John Roecker
Executive producer: Pat Magnarella
Editors: Scott Gawlik, Dean Gonzalez
Composer: Dylan Melody
Not rated, 96 min.
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