Green Day Video Needs To Wake Up

There’s a lot of buzz going for the new Green day video “Wake Me Up When September Ends”. The 4min 45sec song has been made into a 7+min short movie starring Evan Rachel Wood (THIRTEEN) and Jamie Bell (KING KONG). The poignant song (one of Green Day’s best) is now the story of a young couple whose deep love is put to the test when Bell enlists in the military.

The director is Samuel Bayer, whose extensive resume contains some of the most memorable (and best looking) videos of the last 10 years. He’s responsible for all four videos off of Green Day’s current CD “American idiot”, and he’s been quoted in interviews as saying…

"It's the best thing I've ever done. ... I've shot so many videos, but 'September' is hands-down the greatest thing I've ever done."

Now it’s easy for me to sit in my ivory tower and cast judgment down on other people’s accomplishments. The video is well shot and the concept is fine. But is it a great video? In my strong opinion, it’s not even a good one.

First of all, who wrote this dialogue? I get that the leads are teenagers, so I’m not expecting dialogue on par with “The West Wing.” But the writing is very cheesy and the performances are melodramatic when they should be poignant. If you’re going to put dialogue in your video, it should at least be on par with the lyrics.

I’m also not a fan of the schizophrenic mixing of videos that blend story and mood with band footage. Coldplay makes this same mistake with their video for “Fix You” which is moody and sad, when lead singer Chris Martin walks the streets alone, then bland and forgettable when he joins his band onstage for the finale. The footage of Green Day fits the mood of the song, but it fractures the mood of the story.

Then comes the troublesome mid-section. Wood violently confronts Bell, repeating “Tell me you didn’t do it.” It feels hysterically overacted, mainly because we have no idea what he DID. His response of “I did this for us,” leads us to believe he killed someone. It turns out he joined the army. “I thought of all people, you would understand why I did this,” he yells. But the video gives no idea why he did this (financial reasons?) or why she would “understand” losing her boyfriend to a life-threatening situation.

The revelation of the military plays like a surprise. It follows a shot of Bell on what looks like a prison bus. It makes me think Bayer wants us to believe Bell did indeed commit a crime, but why undercut your emotional punch with a misleading plot point?

The remainder of the video intercuts Bell fighting for his life with Wood at home looking sad. There’s also a ridiculous juxtoposition where bombs explode in the Middle East and we cut to pyrotechnics behind the band. That’s about as tasteful as showing the Kennedy assassination and cutting to Green Day driving the motorcade.

Samuel Bayer’s best videos take a simple concept and build images that enhance the song. Videos like Garbage’s “Stupid Girl”, Smashing Pumpkins “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” His previous Green Day video for “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” is a perfect example. Nothing more than Green Day walking through a dusty mid-western town. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” is Bayer’s most ambitious video, but he overdoes it on almost every level. I would advise him to cut two versions of the video, one that’s just the band and another that’s just the images of Wood and Bell. Either way, cut out the dialogue.


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