What We Do Is Secret (Peace Arch, R)

film_what-we-do_sm.jpgThere was always going to be a strike against What We Do Is Secret in that it begs the question as to whether a film about The Germs or Darby Crash was even worth anyone’s time.








Well, keep it that way! Deep within the heart of anyone who’s ever written film criticism is that doofus with oversized glasses who thinks up lousy puns which relate directly to a film’s theme or title. Most of us keep him quiet, others get paid to write every unclever word he has to say. Things are especially hard for films with begging-for-it titles like The Forgotten and Shutter, and you can add What We Do Is Secret to that list because, quite frankly, I wish this tale of The Germs frontman Darby Crash would have remained so.

There was always going to be a strike against What We Do Is Secret in that it begs the question as to whether a film about The Germs or Crash was even worth anyone’s time. Fittingly, first-time writer/director Rodger Grossman strikes out, embarrassingly, in forgetting to convince his audience why so many people wasted their time just to throw together just another live-fast-die-young tortured "artist" biopic. It’s not even clear whether Grossman held any respect for his subject—even though former Germs guitarist Pat Smear served as a consultant for the film—for What We Do Is Secret is probably the worst fuck-disco-we’re-punk nostalgia pic out there.

For a band more famous for their rowdy shows, you’d expect a lot more raw power in at least the performance arena of the film, and for a band no one really seems to hold in any high regard, one might have expected something more interesting than the clichéd talking head monologues about a misunderstood "artist" and how totally radical the entire band was. As Crash, Shane West (ER, A Walk to Remember) is always present but never remotely interesting, especially when compared against Sam Riley in Control, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Ewan McGregor in Velvet Goldmine, and any of the given Bob Dylans of I’m Not There. It was probably bad news to begin with when the most talented actor in the cast is Bijou Phillips, who plays Lorna Doom. The film contains a few surprise character cameos from the likes of Belinda Carlisle, who sort of played drums for The Germs at one point in time, Joan Jett, who sort of produced their first album, and Penelope Spheeris, who featured the band in her documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, all of whom only show up for all-too-brief hellos.

What We Do Is Secret does an unfortunate disservice to those with any interest in the early Los Angeles punk scene. For those with nostalgic ties, the entire film feels like a glossing over of the period’s very essence. For those skeptical about The Germs’ significance in the first place, Grossman offers no insight or clue as to why anyone was interested. And for those completely ignorant, What We Do Is Secret offers a shallow window to a world better explored in nearly every other person’s attempt to capture it. | Joe Bowman

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