When Green Day first announced that their beloved album American Idiot would be adapted for the Broadway stage many were skeptical. Some said it proved how arrogant the band was, others thought it was a cash cow. Though the musical has done well since its release, there are still fans and critics alike who aren’t sure of the band’s intention with the production. This film serves to answer that question and not only show the makings of the production, but to show how Billie went from being unsure about the idea to being in the show. What ether you’re a Green Day fan or just a fan of Broadway this film is a great look into Green Day’s American Idiot.
Any film that goes behind the scenes of a project runs the risk of becoming dull during some parts, but that’s not the case here. While audiences do get to see the beginnings of the production, such as stage set up, dance practices, and composition it has a good balance between this and showing Billie’s story about his Broadway debut. The film doesn’t focus so much on him that it feels like they’re trying to rip off fans, but it also doesn’t solely focus on the “making of” portion where it gets boring. The director Doug Hamilton does a great job with including both types of footage ensuring that there’s something everyone will want to see.
The film is also very stylized to fit in with the look and feel of American Idiot, which I find really cool. It’s like it’s trying to establish that connection with the audience whether or not they’ve actually seen the production. Plus, it just looks really good. Also, throughout the film there are clips from various Green Day concerts with most of them coming from the infamous Milton Keyes show, which was captured live on Bullet in a Bible. It’s great to see this footage alongside the stage musical because it shows how both can be similar, yet different at the same time. Also, it shows anyone who is not familiar with the band sees how powerful Green Day is on stage. And for fans it makes them want to watch Bullet in a Bible all over again.
For anyone who is not familiar with the world of Broadway, this film is a great way to get a feel for it. It shows how a concert and a musical production differ. Audiences also see how dedicated the players are. You can really feel the passion and love of the actors here and it will turn any skeptic into a believer. When I found out some of the actors had a prior connection to the album, it made me like the production instantly. It didn’t feel corny or that they were just going through the motions of learning their lines. They were inspired to put their heart in it because they liked the album in the first place. Also, it shows how there’s not a lot of instant gratification on Broadway. The scene with one of the players crying because he finally made it to Broadway after 28 years was inspiring, yet heartbreaking. It shows that not everyone makes it in the business.
Of course the footage that all Green Day fans will appreciate seeing is Billie getting involved with the project. One of my favorite scenes of the film is when Michael Mayer and the cast convinces the band to go along with the production. Seeing the look on their faces go from uncertainty to awe was great. It not only showed they could get excited by their own music, but that they always keep an open mind. Another thoughtful moment is when Billie prepares for his stint as St. Jimmy. You would think since he wrote the song, performed it numerous times, and has such a great stage persona this would be easy for him. Viewers learn this is the furthest thing from the truth. While Billie can sing the song just fine, we see him struggle with the choreography and the acting. You can even see how nervous he is during rehearsals. It not only shows that Billie isn’t arrogant, but that he was serious about getting everything right.
There’s also a lot of great footage of the musical itself for anyone was hasn’t seen the production or who just wants to relive it again. Viewers get to see early stages of production where things get added or taken out. We then get to see how it looks during the final stage. I’ll admit when I first heard about this musical I was skeptical, I even thought it was a bit stupid, but I assumed the guys knew what they were doing. But after seeing some of the footage from the production I grew to like and appreciate it. Some of the players are really good, such as the person playing St. Jimmy, and they managed to make a lot of the songs come to life with cool visuals. Also, the new story Mayer came up with is interesting and does a great job of connecting with the songs. While not everyone is that good at singing, there are still some stand out actors who sounded really great.
The parts that are really eye opening are when Billie is talking about being sucked into the community aspect of the theater world and how he always longed for that, yet never found it in the rock world. Fans know how the band was shunned from Gilman street for finding mainstream success, but for years Billie always acted like it never bothered him. Here, he’s honest in saying he misses that camaraderie and that sense of belonging to a family of friends. Several times in the film you can see him connecting and caring about these people. He jokes with them, hangs out with them, and as Mayer points out lets them into the world of Green Day. One of the most touching moments is the preparation for Grammy ceremony. I remember watching this performance and thinking it was just a big advertisement for the show. But the film shows that it was Billie’s idea to have the cast on stage with him because that was his family at the time and it shows how unselfish this guy is.
Overall, the film gets 9/10. Whether you’re a Green Day fan or just a fan of Broadway, this film has a little something for everyone. Not only does it show how the production came about, it also shows how Billie grew to love the idea and grew to be a part of the community. There are fun moments, there are heartbreaking moments, along with some frustration, but throughout the audience is there with the actors every step of the way. With scenes from the actual production itself and sensing the passion from the players, it will convince anyone that this is a project that matters; not just an excuse for Green Day to make more money.