Released in September 2004, ‘American Idiot’ was the seventh studio album by American punk rock trio Green Day. As a concept album and punk rock opera, the record re-defined its genre and set new standards across the industry. Charting in 27 countries and reaching number one in 19 of them, the album eventually sold over 15 million copies worldwide, spawning five platinum singles. Its success has inspired a Broadway musical and a so far incomplete feature film adaptation. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that over 10 years after its initial release, ‘Heart like a Hand Grenade’ (in reference to that iconic album artwork) is released as a short film documenting the album’s recording process.
Despite being billed as an ‘intimate look of the band recording…art house style’, the film also includes a large amount of footage taken from the album’s tour of the band in performance. The documentary is obvious in its attempt to take each song from the album, one by one, examine the creative process behind them, document the discussions which took place, film the band recording said song and then play some footage of the group performing it live either in the studio or on stage. Whilst this initially seemed promising, the quality of footage was noticeably different from single to single, with little or no explanation. Even some huge hits such as ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ failed to get much screen time (aside from live performances) whilst songs with much less acclaim such as ‘Give me Novocaine’ was documented in far more detail. Despite this, there were others which deservedly gave the most screen time to the timeless singles such as ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ and ‘Wake Me up When September Ends’.
Nevertheless, it was exciting to see how an album of such magnitude was recorded in what appeared to be a very intimate studio located somewhere in Los Angeles. It was also reassuring to see how much creative input the producers had and the apparent good relationship which they enjoyed with the band. Billie Joe Armstrong seemed no different at home than he does out on tour, and the same went for bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool, who between them made this writer laugh a fair few times with their amusing, if immature antics.
The film was punctuated by a number of comedy sketches involving the band and home footage showing once again how tight knit the group are. These were refreshing if a bit tiresome towards the end of the documentary, as I found myself disappointed the lack of content regarding the actual songwriting process.
The film was clearly intended to provide something of a nostalgia trip for dedicated fans who would surely count ‘American Idiot’ as one of their all time favourite albums. Perhaps it was this intention which led to the overuse of live footage to compensate for the lack of song writing material, but as somebody who is also a moderate fan of Green Day, I thought this did leave a solid, well directed film let down by a lack of content which fans would have been determined to see. (Three stars)