Wednesday, July 4, 2012

DVD Review: God Bless America

God Bless America
Directed by: Bobcat Goldthwait.
Written by: Bobcat Goldthwait.
Starring: Joel Murray (Frank), Tara Lynne Barr (Roxy), Mackenzie Brooke Smith (Ava), Melinda Page Hamilton (Alison), Rich McDonald (Brad), Guerrin Gardner (Crystal), Aris Alvarado (Steve Clark), Romeo Brown (John Tyler), Regan Burns (Michael Dunne), Maddie Hasson (Chloe), Larry Miller (Ben), Geoff Pierson (Mr. Parker).

Bobcat Goldthwait is angry. He is angry at all the rudeness in American society – where no one seems to respect each other. He is angry at people’s sense of entitlement, where they think they deserve everything they want the second they want it. Angry at a system that says simple acts of kindness and affection can be construed as sexual harassment. He is angry at America’s obsession with celebrity – where everyone thinks they are special, and will do anything to get on TV. Where no one cares why they are famous – even if they are famous for being awful people. Some will claim that his God Bless America it a left wing fantasy, because among Goldthwait’s targets are a Bill O’Reilly type conservative TV personality, the Tea Party, and crazy religious groups who protest the funerals of gay people. But he also takes shots at Hollywood itself – Diablo Cody for glamorizing teen pregnancy and making teenagers look like insufferable hipsters, at Woody Allen falling in love with much younger woman, and pretty much everyone who sexualizes teenage girls as if its normal. He is pissed off at everything, and in God Bless America, he lets all that anger out.

The hero of the movie is Frank (Joel Murray), a divorced middle aged man, who works for an insurance company that he hates, who has a daughter who hates him because his place is “boring”, and lives in an apartment complex with paper thin walls, next to a rude young couple with a baby who will not stop crying, who park their bright yellow mustang blocking him in every day. In the course of a day, he gets fired from his job for sending flowers to a co-worker, and finds out he has an inoperable brain tumor. He goes home that night determined to kill himself – but then he stumbles across an episode of a show obviously based on MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen, with an insufferable bitch of a teenage girl, who demands everything, who throws a hissy fit because her parents buy her a Lexus instead of an Escalade, and a father who says he is a failure because it’s his job to give his little girl everything she wants whenever she wants it. So Frank decides before he kills himself, that he is going to steal that yellow mustang, and drive to Virginia and kill that teenage girl – which he does. He is seen by Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), another teenage girl, who tracks him down and tells him he is great. That girl deserved to die. But there are so many others that also deserve to die. And so soon, this odd couple hits the road to kill those people they think deserve it. But get your mind out of the gutter; they are just “platonic spree killers”.

There is nothing subtle about God Bless America, and its satire of American culture. If anything Goldthwait hammers home his point too hard and too often over the course of the movie. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t pretty much spot on. The first 10 minutes of the film are particularly brilliant as Goldthwait shows Frank channel surfing through a series of reality and talk shows, which are slightly exaggerated, but not by very much. God Bless America clearly takes place in an exaggerated and unrealistic world. After all, early on in the film Frank and Roxy are seen on camera, and yet there is no police who are ever really looking for them – they are allowed to crisscross the country unencumbered. But this is because Goldthwait is not making a typical “killing spree” movie, but a satire on American culture. He doesn’t have time for police.

The movie benefits greatly from its two lead performances. Joel Murray is the personification of an everyman – overweight and normal in every way – you wouldn’t notice him sitting on the bus next to him. But he has that anger in those early scenes that simmers under the surface that will not stay buried for all that long. He goes on numerous rants throughout the movie, and while in other hands, this could easily come across as pretentious, it seems genuine coming from Murray it seems genuine. As for Tara Lynne Barr, she is Murray`s equal as an angry, bored young girl, tired of her generation looking like idiots all the time.

God Bless America is perhaps the satire that American culture deserves at this moment. You probably won`t agree with all of Goldthwait`s beefs during the course of the movie – I don’t – but you cannot deny that some of what he says makes sense. It`s rare to see a movie with this much anger and rage, this much passion behind it. It is a blunt instrument of a movie – but an effective one.

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