If you know the name Billie Joe Armstrong then it’s probably as the frontman of Green Day, the ringmaster of one of the biggest rock bands of the last twenty years. He’s always been engaging in music videos and onstage and even had a stint in Broadway playing St Jimmy in the musical adapted from his own American Idiot album. But a primarily dialogue driven role in a motion picture is another challenge altogether.
In Ordinary World, Armstrong has picked a safe entry into the world of lead acting, with the character of Perry Miller almost seeming tailor-made for him. Miller is an ageing punk, whose band ‘The Skunx’ are on “indefinite hiatus” while he raises his two young children with his wife Karen (Selma Blair). With no real world experience Perry ends up working in the hardware store he inherited with his brother – though his heart is clearly elsewhere. When his wife forgets his 40th birthday, he takes it upon himself to throw a party in the most expensive hotel suite he can find. The rest of the film sees Perry struggling to reconcile his yearning for ‘the good old days’ with his new responsibilities as a father, further exacerbated when old flame Christy (Judy Greer) bumps into him in the lobby.
Director Lee Kirk wisely avoids scripting a ‘Hangover’-style party, and keeping things believable adds to the pathos of the film. In contrast with his assured showmanship with Green Day, it is refreshing to see Armstrong getting to grips with a new style of performance after 30 years of owning punk shows. While the role is clearly geared towards him, Armstrong deserves credit for his delivery of crucial lines, be they jokes or more serious moments.
The key scene features Christy alone with Perry in his hotel room, reminiscing on what could have been between them. After an awkward pass from Christy, Perry decides to show her a new song he’s written about coming to terms with his suburban lifestyle. Of the songs Armstrong contributes to the film, ‘Ordinary World’ is uniquely tender among his repertoire, and its placement in juxtaposition to the wild party raging outside is great writing.
Not widely released to cinemas, Ordinary World is a labour of love that is both enjoyable and affecting enough to warrant a watch. Armstrong’s first steps in acting are encouraging enough, but it’ll be interesting to see him in a more unfamiliar role. From the simplicity of the script and setting to Armstrong’s sometimes tentative performance, Ordinary World puts a surprisingly heart-warming human factor above what could have become a “crazy party gone wrong” vibe, and is all the better for it.