Broadway Idiot is less a documentary than a video souvenir playbill. Apparently intended only for audiences who caught American Idiot, Green Day’s Tony-nominated musical, during its yearlong run at the St. James Theatre, the film surveys the gestation, life, and death of the pop-punk opera without ever explaining the show’s story.
It’s hard not to feel cynical about Broadway Idiot: It’s a documentary celebrating a musical based on an album, probably made to maintain “awareness” for the inevitable movie adaptation of the play. (Tom Hanks has already optioned the film rights.) Broadway does nothing to dispel that cynicism. It contains more praise than insights, and, chopped into several sections, the documentary could easily become a series of featurettes in the “Extras” section of an American Idiot DVD. Yet Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong still commands the screen.
Rocking a bottle-black mop atop his acne-scarred baby face, he’s a total humble-bragger, but you want to give him a hug anyway, especially when he confesses that commercial success cost him a lot of friends. “Which is fine, you only need a few,” he snorts in his reedy, petulant voice, licking his wounds, before marveling at the camaraderie he found in the theater world. For a few weeks, Armstrong played St. Jimmy, an id figure, during the Broadway run, and the 30 seconds highlighting his performance are the film’s most riveting. He’s ferociously, mischievously alive, his face as alert as a rat’s. It’s American intoxication.