REVIEW: God Bless America [2012]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

Rating: R | Runtime: 105 minutes | Release Date: May 11th, 2012 (USA)
Studio: Magnet Releasing / Magnolia Pictures
Director(s): Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer(s): Bobcat Goldthwait

“You guys need extra napkins?”

I’ll probably end up on some kind of list for saying it, but Frank Murdoch is my new hero. Here is a guy so fed up with the disintegrating IQ of America turning its rabble into slaves to C-list celebrities and numb to shock value that he’s decided to cleanse the country of its idiocy. Evil role models, entitled millionaires, prepubescent whores, and a new generation so attached to their technologically advanced toys that they’ve lost the concept of personal responsibility and human compassion—all must go so we may move towards a future devoid of the coming self-induced, apocalyptic wasteland of mindless drones vomiting pop culture and apathy. Diagnosed with terminal cancer and realizing his ex-wife and TV have morphed his daughter into a monster, Frank has nothing more to lose.

This is the premise of Bobcat Goldthwait‘s newest film God Bless America, a biting commentary on the state of the country as it marches towards intellectual oblivion. Riddled with sharp monologues talking on our newfound insensitivity to culture in lieu of mindless, quasi-entertainment transforming us into willing participants in the fame of worthless, empty creatures possessing nothing meaningful to the advancement of society, Goldthwait has given us an unfiltered vision of reality that sadly isn’t far from the truth. When movies like Gangster Squad reshoot their climax to detach themselves from the horrors of the real world, here is a singular—albeit warped—voice cutting through the manipulations and fabrications to portray what so many feel in their hearts. We fear for the future and unfortunately can do little but sit back and watch.

Murdoch (Joel Murray), however, takes a stand. After eleven years in a thankless job he’s just been fired from for flirting with the receptionist inside a culture of overprotective citizens who would rather vet their prospective lovers through the internet than in-person conversation, feigning decency in the face of indecency no longer appeals. Inconsiderate neighbors, co-workers, and family cannot be catered to because the world asks us to be “the bigger person” in every situation. Our actions have consequences and punishment must be enforced so overly litigious layabouts don’t neuter the rest of us trying to evolve towards a brighter future. The lowest common denominator can no longer designate our motivational ceiling. To Frank, removing them from the equation is the only way to break through.

The decision doesn’t come easy. His original plan was suicide before the vapid drama tween-queen Chloe (Maddie Hasson) arrived on his television. Watching this ungrateful brat scream profanities at parents too readily willing to blame themselves for not making her happy stirs up an insatiable urge for action. Driving to the faux celebrity’s school, his homicidal rage is wrought and we feel nothing but satisfaction. As Frank admits he feels good doing it, we too are empowered by the thought of bloody justice. The fact this makes me as complicit to unhealthy fantasy as the public living vicariously through the Kardashians isn’t lost on me. I would simply rather dream I had the guts to exterminate the world’s thankless hordes of manufactured cows than wish to dilute myself into becoming one of them.

This is where sixteen-year old Roxy Harmon (Tara Lynne Barr) comes into play. She is an innocent bystander aware of life’s travesties who sees Frank put thoughts into action and desires to join his revolution like us. A girl beyond her years in acknowledging the sheep’s penchant for baa-ing rather than speech, her youth comes through her excitable demeanor spewing forth a shallow list of new, “worthy” prey. Frank isn’t on a mission to annihilate every stupid nobody using the system to their advantage, though. He only wants to take out those too mean to exist. Kids disrespecting the sanctity of public institutions, nationally televised has-beens berating and exploiting the mentally handicapped for laughs and ratings, and angry politicos riling up our xenophobic populace because they have nothing better to do—these aren’t victims, they’re devils.

God Bless America isn’t for everyone—but then what purely no-holds-barred satire is? Goldthwait sometimes gets on a roll with his diatribes against complacency and finds the delivery of his lines stilted as a result of their dense construction. Yet every word still rings true. We don’t need Murray and Barr’s dialogue to feel natural at every turn because this isn’t a glimpse at reality. This is a manifestation of bottled-up emotions bubbling to the surface in a way intelligent creatures know can never be the answer. Film is Goldthwait’s medium of choice to release all the anger and malicious intent he simply couldn’t hold onto any longer. It’s a glorious chorus of truisms inside a world where the line between fact and fiction has blurred to the point of non-existence.

His message—no matter how gratuitous—is one America should heed but never will. There are too many willing participants clamoring to mock “American Superstaz” contestants like Aris Alvarado‘s Steven Clark only allowed on the show because he’s awkward and weird; too many spineless buffoons trapped in utopic ideals (Rich McDonald‘s Brad); and too many brainwashed adults believing hands-off parenting ensures children won’t hate them when it actually ensures they will (Melinda Page Hamilton‘s Alison). Their numbers are too exhausting and the Franks and Roxys too few. Genocide is never a term to be used lightly or with actual intent yet one must recognize the benefits of cleansing those who assist in our demise. God Bless America is this century’s Natural Born Killers, enhancing its gospel into a new masterpiece of political commentary.

[1] Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr in GOD BLESS AMERICA, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
[2] Joel Murray in GOD BLESS AMERICA, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
[3] Tara Lynne Barr in GOD BLESS AMERICA, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

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