God Bless America

| July 3, 2012

Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait once again flexes his writing and directing muscles with his new dark comedy God Bless America.  Starring Joel Murray (The Artist) and newcomer Tara Lynne Barr, the film tells the story of Frank (Murray), a middle aged guy with nothing left to lose, who is sick and tired of how our society has come to praise and even worship the worst aspects of people.  Frank feels that the media in general has begun to celebrate its own mean-spirited, gluttonous existence.  So, Frank naturally decides to begin executing those he feels deserve to die.  On his first mission to take out a spoiled reality show starlet, Frank meets Roxy (Barr), a precocious high school student who quickly becomes fascinated with Frank’s desire to exterminate useless people.  And so, the pair go out into the world, shooting TV personalities, news pundits, and even just people who talk in movie theaters (a particularly satisfying scene to me personally).

The above description may give you the impression that the film only has one note.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Goldthwait’s script is sharply written and clever to the core.  Couple that with the exceptional performances of Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr and God Bless America quickly establishes itself as something special.  Yes, the film does make a lot of references to current pop culture trends, and thus may have a limited shelf life in terms of being enjoyable beyond the next few years, which is all the more reason to not put this one off.  It’s kind of like looking into a parallel dimension, where everything is similar to our world, and yet slightly different.  In Frank’s world, American Idol is American Allstarz, and Bill O’Reilly is called Michael Dunn (Regan Burns).  The parallels between Roxy and Juno are obvious, but the film is more than aware of this and makes a point of having Frank tease Roxy for how out there and Juno-like she is.  Roxy understandably hates this and suggests they go kill Diablo Cody (Screenwriter of Juno) in a scene that serves the growing bond between Frank and Roxy.  It’s quite lovely as far as this dark and twisted world is capable of.

My final praise of God Bless America is that the Frank character actively avoids things that might be considered inappropriate behavior between a man his age and a teenager.  This one character trait is spectacularly complicated in its simplicity.  Frank literally has nothing to lose.  His ex-wife and daughter hate him, he has no job, he has a brain tumor, and every time he tries to have a meaningful conversation with someone it’s instantly reduced to a string of predictable douche bag catchphrases.  On top of that, he has apparently zero conscience when it comes to murdering people.  All of this juxtaposed with an almost old-fashioned sense of chivalry makes Frank an incredibly interesting character.  It’s unclear whether or not Roxy would even be open to a sexual relationship with Frank.  Normally a relationship like this would feel somewhat like a father/daughter type of relationship, but Frank and Roxy feel more like best friends, or war buddies.

Special features include a making of featurette, deleted/extended scenes and outtakes, Interviews with the cast and crew, a music video, commentary, and the original theatrical trailer.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Magnolia Home Entertainment on July 3

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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