God Bless America review

After making his best film with World’s Greatest Dad, Bobcat Goldthwait became known to movie fans worldwide beyond his cult following for his stand up, his appearances in various movies over the years, and films like Shakes the Clown and Windy City Heat.  With Robin Williams starring, Goldthwait shocked many older fans of the actor that thought it was going to be a light comedy, not a farce about a teen’s death from auto-erotic asphyxiation.  Now, with God Bless America, he has dropped any pretense at niceties toward the general population, calling America out for its absurd fascination with bad behavior and the perversion of morality via reality television.

Joel Murray (from Showtime‘s fantastic remake of the UK show Shameless) stars as Frank, whose simple life quickly deteriorates after he is unceremoniously fired from his job, only to find out he has a brain tumor that will kill him rather quickly.  Infuriated by his moronic neighbors, he spends his time fighting insomnia by watching TV, where he is made sick by the garbage he sees via reality TV and commercial America.

In the midst of a mental breakdown, Frank stalks out a My Super Sweet 16 style star and shoots her dead.  This act is witnessed by Roxanne (Tara Lynn Barr) who thinks its the best thing she’s ever seen.  While Frank tries to get away from her, he can’t, and when she gets him cornered, she convinces him to keep going and bring her along.  Deciding to go out with a bang, Frank decides to follow her plan, hunting down the parents of the girl, people who take up 2 parking spaces and an annoying TV pundit.

The rampage stays light, while being rather on the nose with its message,  yet somehow it is enough of a  farce on all these subjects that it works in a more dramatic sense.  Joel Murray is excellent as the passive, polite Frank, and Tara Lynn Barr holds her hand as the runaway Roxanne.

God Bless America is dark, but I still think World’s Greatest Dad is much darker because it’s unexpected.  When Frank explodes, we have watched him rise to that point through a series of events.  The comedy is the tragedy, as Frank learns his true fate late in the movie, the coldest joke in the entire movie, perhaps.  These key scenes reminded me of Todd Solondz‘s Happiness as far as the dark tone is concerned, the violence is actually not that graphic except in key scenes, and shockingly, it allows you to take the movie more seriously, making it actually less exploitative than it could have been.

The cinematography is consistent and adds a lot to the tone of the film with the color palette used and the steady movement of the camera.   Goldthwait provides some big set pieces on a limited budget (I believe I saw him say $4 million) and plenty of dark humor.  The music is another large key to the tone of the film, with a lot of slow motion montages that didn’t come off as over-dramatic or cheesy.  It’s a film with a satisfying ending, which seems to have become a lost art, and despite the trailer, it’s not as exploitative as advertised, but it does get a little preachy in certain spots, but the humor absolves this, proving it all a true farce.  On VOD now, hitting theaters early May.


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