God Bless America Review: Bob Goldthwait Holds Mirror to American Society

Bobcat Goldthwait is fast establishing himself as one of America’s best and boldest cult directors with his third feature, and the comedy continues to grow darker and darker.

rating: 4

Bobcat Goldthwait is fast establishing himself as one of America€™s best and boldest cult directors with his third feature, and the comedy continues to grow darker and darker. I€™d been excited for this film since hearing the premise, simply; one day a guy snaps and goes on a killing spree targeting only stars of reality TV. I hate reality TV and love gratuitous violence so this seemed like a perfect fit. But Goldthwait brings a clear voice and a moral message that is sometimes stronger than the violence, and there€™s A LOT of violence. The hatred isn€™t just focused on reality stars but many aspects of American popular culture, such as fear-mongering political commentators like Glenn Beck and Bill O€™Reilly, or the celebrity status of the Westboro Baptist Church, TMZ, and even the writing of Diablo Cody, but overall, the dumbing down of American culture. Goldthwait introduces us to his protagonist by putting him through as much torture as he can muster. Frank (Joel Murray, or Freddy Rumsen to Mad Men fans) learns his daughter has become an insufferable materialistic brat when speaking with his ex-wife, who is now getting re-married. Frank then gets fired from his job for essentially being a nice guy to a female co-worker before finding out he has an inoperable brain-tumor. All in the same day. His only option left is to either start cooking crystal meth or kill people he hates. Frank is initially inspired when he has a gun in his mouth, ready to end it all, and turns to the TV to see a spoilt girl throw a tantrum when not getting the right sports car on a show which is basically My Super Sweet 16. Instead of suicide, Frank drives to the girl€™s school and murders her, which leads to him meeting the homicidal Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a student at the same school. Roxy is fascinated by Frank€™s mission and persuades him to let her join him, and the Bonnie & Clyde-esque fun begins. Goldthwait purposefully says to the audience €˜are you in or out?€™ in the opening sequence in which Frank has a daydream about murdering the family keeping him awake next door, which has a bloody finale. If you laugh, you€™re in, if not, the rest of the film may be hard to swallow. The killings, for the most part, are pretty cathartic. The net widens from TV personalities to everyday annoying people, such as some douchebags who talk in a movie theatre and a guy purposefully taking up two parking spaces. But the film really shines during Frank€™s well argued and masterfully written speeches about the dumbing down of society and how €˜nobody has any shame anymore.€™ The initial speech is as powerful as Mickey€™s TV interview in Natural Born Killers in which he tries to justify murder. Frank is Goldthwait€™s darkest thoughts manifested. He even incorporates parts of his stand-up routine into the dialogue, such as a desire to rig telephones so every time someone voted on €˜American Idol Superstarz€™, a mark would be burned into the side of their face and he would know who to avoid talking to. Joel Murray (Bill€™s little brother) successfully manages to portray one of the most down-to-earth serial killers in recent history. Then again it€™s not his job to €˜bring the crazy€™, that comes from his partner in crime, Roxy, portrayed by Tara Lynne Barr in one of the most strongest acting debuts of the year. The relationship between the two of them is the heart of the film, much more father-daughter than anything else, even though Roxy wouldn€™t like to admit it. Roxy€™s initial hopes are that it will be a whirlwind romance, shown in an awkward moment when Roxy asks Frank if he€™s attracted to her; €˜I€™m not a pedophile€™ €˜Oh, so we€™re plutonic spree-killers?€™ €˜Yeah, and nothing else.€™ This ends in another of Frank€™s rants against celebrities who objectify children (R Kelly, Woody Allen) when no one bats an eyelid because of their fame. Roxy seems to vent at more obscure targets though, such as people who high-five and Glee, but it allows Goldthwait to take the overrated writing of Diablo Cody down a peg or two, €˜She€™s the only stripper who suffers from too much self-esteem.€™ It€™s easy to see where the hypocrisy lies though, and it€™s one of the few flaws of the film; to preach about the dumbing down of society and presenting it in a hyper-violent and gory fashion. It€™s easy to cheer at the killing of stereotypes of reality stars, not so much the general public or a crew rigging the €˜American Superstarz€™ set during the climax of the film. Before the third acts kicks off the film gets a little too preachy, Frank and Roxy continue to justify why they€™re killing, but at this point it feels like they€™re just preaching to the choir (the audience who kept watching). Regardless this is Goldthwait€™s funniest film to date, and features a great supporting cast. Comedy nerds will be happy to see Larry Miller and Tom Kenny make appearances, as well as Goldthwait regular Morgan Murphy. The film won€™t gain a large audience, then again it€™s not intended t, but it€™ll give haters of modern reality TV, and American society in general, something to turn to. Not to mention something fresh for media students to write their dissertations about. God Bless America is currently available in the U.S on video-on-demand as well as a limited theatrical release. There is currently no U.K release date.
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