'God Bless America': a killer satire from Bobcat Goldthwait
A movie review of "God Bless America," Bobcat Goldthwait's fire-breathing comic satire about an aggrieved middle-aged everyman (Joel Murray) who, with plenty of reasons to be mad as hell, begins to vent his misanthropy behind the barrel of a gun.
The New York Times
'God Bless America,' with Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr, Aris Alvarado, Maddie Hasson. 104 minutes. Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. Rated R for strong violence and language including some sexual sequences. SIFF Cinema at the Uptown.
The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.
"We've become a nation of slogan-saying, bile-spewing hatemongers! We've lost our kindness! We've lost our soul!" shouts Frank (Joel Murray), an aggrieved middle-aged everyman with plenty of reasons to be mad as hell.
In his climactic rant near the end of the fire-breathing comic satire "God Bless America," Frank is an obvious mouthpiece for the film's writer and director, Bobcat Goldthwait. Like it or not, his unhinged fury strikes a chord.
A 21st-century Howard Beale toting an automatic rifle, Frank has commandeered the stage of "American Superstarz," an "American Idol"-like reality show. He is outraged that the show has been exploiting a cretinous, talent-free butterball for laughs.
Frank foolishly believes himself to be the great defender of Steven (Aris Alvarado), who had attempted suicide, until that oaf interrupts his speech to explain, with a grin, that he didn't try to kill himself because people were making fun of him but because "they weren't going to put me on TV anymore."
The key word in Frank's tirade is "kindness." Its conspicuous absence on television galls him to the degree that he begins acting out his unkind urge to mow down people he doesn't like.
Frank also learns he has a malignant brain tumor. He is fired from his job for "harassment" after sending flowers to his ill office receptionist. His rude neighbors in Syracuse have a baby that screams all night. And his daughter by his ex-wife is a spoiled brat who refuses to see him.
After contemplating suicide, Frank decides that because he isn't long for this world, he may as well vent his misanthropy behind the barrel of a gun. His first victim, Chloe (Maddie Hasson), is the monstrous teenager from a "My Super Sweet 16" parody who flies into a tantrum when her parents give her the wrong car for her birthday. When Frank blows her to bits, you may feel a twinge of guilty pleasure.
Frank then meets Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a foul-mouthed local girl. After some verbal skirmishing, they become a team of natural-born killers.
Goldthwait's screenplay is essentially a comedy act fleshed out with a story he doesn't try to make convincing. The funniest moments are speeches like Roxy's twisted argument that every road in today's rock 'n' roll landscape leads back to Alice Cooper, whose music is heard on the soundtrack. As she tells it, his pre-eminence makes a certain demented sense. "God Bless America" will make you laugh — up to a point.