God Bless America
Directed and Written by Bobcat Goldthwait, Starring Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr
Fandango Synopsis - Frank has had enough of the downward spiral of American culture, which he sees as overrun with cruelty, stupidity and intolerance. Divorced, recently fired, and possibly terminally ill, Frank truly has nothing left to live for. But instead of taking his own life, he buys a gun and decides to take out his frustration on the cruelest, stupidest, most intolerant people he can imagine—starting with some particularly odious reality television stars. Frank finds an unusual accomplice in a high-school student named Roxy, who shares his sense of rage and disenfranchisement, and together they embark on a nation-wide assault on our country’s dumbest, most irritating celebrities.
My Thoughts - GOD BLESS AMERICA is in a sense one long angry rant about what’s wrong with American society and it played for me just like a favorite song. (I’ll go with David Bowie’s BLACKOUT) It may not hit with everyone, but it’s a film very in sync with my feelings, which helped allow me to overlook the weaknesses it had and really enjoy it. Where it may have been pandering to me, it could be opening someone else’s eyes. I had a blast with this film.
Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait has something he wants to say with this film and he says it clearly and often. There are no nuanced attempts to weave social commentary into a story, but rather he chooses to put the commentary first and the story second. This isn’t usually a great approach when trying to make a good film, but his blunt, usually hilarious dialogue and shocking violence made for a unique and wonderful viewing experience. I had a lot of doubt as to whether this seemingly slight premise could stretch to even thirty minutes, but I enjoyed the film all the way through the finale and laughed more than I had during a new film in a long time. The first scene in the film featured a horrifying act that is meant to be funny. It’s a moment that gives the audience an idea of what they are in for and gives them an opportunity to opt out or go all in. I laughed very hard and was happy to go along. I also had a big smile on my face during the long homage to TAXI DRIVER. (My favorite film ever!)
I think it’s hard to accurately compare the film to many things, but for me it worked in the same way another social satire, SOUTH PARK does. The dialogue was often unnatural and at times became minutes long diatribes by the protagonist, played by Joel Murray. Again, these diatribes were nearly always DEAD ON and Murray actually delivered them well. The dialogue, I thought was similar to that in a Kevin Smith film. It’s clever and funny, but usually a little unrealistic and hard for an actor to deliver. The difference between Goldthwait’s dialogue and Smith’s is that Goldthwait’s isn’t toss away nonsense, but instead deft analyzation of where we are as a society. Both are funny, but Goldthwait’s is relevant.
Obviously it’s hard to give a great performance in this type of film, but I thought Joel Murray did a good job and became more convincing as the film continued. The whole film is a form of a fantasy, so it’s hard to dig too deeply into his psyche, but he did his best to make the character real. His indignation and genuine goodness came through clearly. I loved the choices made in the screenplay to buck conventions of the outlaw character and his female sidekick. This never turned into a Bonnie and Clyde or maybe more apt, a Clyde and Lolita situation. Yes, Murray was murdering people left and right, but he was an ordinary and very moral man.
Tara Lynne Barr was very good as his overly excited sidekick. She was more or less into the murder spree for the same reasons as Murray, but lacked much of his discretion. She was much more willing to blow people away for little annoyances, such as giving high fives or listening to country music. Some of the funniest scenes consisted of Murray and Barr jokingly ping ponging back and forth all the different types of people they should kill. (This all sounds much more morbid than it truly is. To understand any of the obviously black humor, you have to understand the tone of the film. It surely isn’t for everyone, but I have a dark sense of humor.)
While many will label GOD BLESS AMERICA as a film about killing awful faux celebrities that help drag society into the toilet, the truth is, as Goldthwait has said in interviews and the film makes very clear, often straight from Murray’s mouth, this is really a film about kindness. It’s a film crying out for us to stop being so damn cruel to each other. Like most comedies, the story is slight, but the message is fantastic and the dark humor biting. I really love that this film was made and think people need to check it out!
My Rating : 8/10
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