Review: Green Day ‘hit a few duff notes’ in documentary

Whether you are a Green Day fan or not, almost everyone has heard of their 2004 album American Idiot, which sold over 15million copies worldwide.

Heart Like a Hand Grenade documents Director John Roecker’s nine months with Green Day surrounding the production of this album.

Of course your opinion of the band will greatly affect your perception of the film, but for both casual and hardcore fans, the documentary hits some duff notes.

The concept of behind-the-scenes backstage access to the band during the making of this historic album sounds like it will be extraordinary viewing.

However for the most part it fails to live up to this interest and instead seems to focus on a collage of videos of the band in the recording studio, and a basic development of the album’s songs.

This provides one of the best and worst aspects of the documentary, as the blending of footage between raw acoustic versions of songs and polished live performances provides hugely enjoyable viewing and listening.

These performances provide spectacular episodes of nostalgia, hearing hits such as Boulevard of Broken Dreams and American Idiot, reminding us of classic songs from a time when Green Day were arguably the biggest band in the world.

However this also shows the lack of depth which the documentary desperately craves to create a more personal, heartfelt and engaging view of the band.

While seeing the band laughing and joking in the studio is welcome, and reflects the image of Green Day as the classic care-free pop-punk act, it lacks an element of true emotion.

There are moments which hint at this depth, like when Mike Dirnt talks about having children and the effect this had on his personal life, and the band talking about the path from childhood to becoming a man and the dangers accompanied by this.

But these occasions are kept far too short and somewhat enigmatic, and offer frustration at a missed opportunity to create a relatable human element within the footage.

Of course there are some feel-good moments which fans will enjoy, such as Billie Joe Armstrong reflecting on:  “The sadness of wow I’m never going to make that record again… as far as making a record I think it was the best time we ever had because of the people we had around.”

It is also certainly evident the passion director John Roecker has for filming the band and the artsy homemade-like footage comes across as endearing rather than unprofessional.

It’s great for fans of the band to see the members in this different environment, but there could be so much more.

The documentary acts as a reminder of the American Idiot album, and the front-row experience of Green Day’s live performances at the time, rather than breaking any new ground.

Maybe that’s enough for some fans, but perhaps they would be better off getting their fix of nostalgia by placing their old American Idiot CD in the stereo one more time.

Image courtesy of Green Day, via Youtube, with thanks

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