2006, Movie, NR, 93 mins


If you're thinking there's not a whole lot to say about the great unsayable, you're right: Steve Anderson's willfully provocative cussin'-heads documentary about everyone's favorite four-letter word wears pretty thin pretty fast. Anderson and his host of commentators — who range from linguists, lexicographers and grammarians to conservative commentators, Alanis Morissette and far too many stand-up comedians — begin with a brief history of the word, its murky etymology (turns out the whole "Fornication Under Consent of the King" acronym is a myth), when the word first appeared in print (a 15th-century poet was the first to drop the F-bomb), and a list of who within the pantheon of our great writers used it (Robert Burns, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce) and who didn't (Norman Mailer). Anderson gives short shrift to the word's appearance in music and movies in order to focus on the fates of groundbreaking stand-up comedians Lenny Bruce and George Carlin, bold artists who dared use the word on stage, record and radio, and suffered for their sins. Anderson's point is that this notorious word, the primary definition of which still denotes an activity most adults engage in and really enjoy, still carries a taboo that points to a much larger issue: It's not the word itself, but what its usage says about the user. The F-word divides the heterogeneous mass of English-speaking peoples into two basic groups: Those who are comfortable saying it and those who aren't, and that comfort level seems to reflect a basic political and religious conservatism. Oddly enough, it's this latter group that may find the film interesting, as it ultimately shares their obsession with a mere word. The rest of us foulmouthed motherf***ers will find it much ado about nothing much at all. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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