7.1

God Bless America

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<i>God Bless America</i>

God Bless America is the new black comedy written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. The film follows Frank (Joel Murray), a depressed middle-aged man with an ex-wife and a bratty daughter who fantasizes about killing the idiots he’s surrounded by at home, work and in his day-to-day life. After being diagnosed with a brain tumor, fired from work, and told that his eight-year-old daughter no longer wants to see him because he’s boring, Frank decides to take his own life.

Just as Frank is about to commit suicide, the TV turns to a reality show about a spoiled teenager named Chloe (Maddie Hasson) who throws a huge tantrum on her sixteenth birthday because her parents bought her the wrong extremely expensive car. Frank decides there are people in this world more deserving of death than himself. Frank stalks Chloe to her high school, where he shoots her in her car. But as he leaves, he’s spotted by one of Chloe’s classmates, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) who follows Frank back to his hotel room. Roxy is deeply excited by Frank’s passion to exterminate the people whom she also considers to be the scum of the earth. She hated Chloe and now wants to help Frank on his mission to rid the world of rude, narrow-minded jerks. The two become a team of assassins, roaming America on a mission to wipe out stupidity and those who contribute to the downward spiral of American culture wherever they find it. This takes all sorts of forms, from people who take up two parking spaces or talk on their cell phone during movies to racist bigots who hide behind the banner of religion and the inflammatory right-wing “news casters” who use fear mongering to keep viewers watching. It is not until the end, however, that Frank and Roxy realize their true destiny: to destroy American Superstarz, a TV program, akin to American Idol, that has taken a mentally handicapped man and exploited him for the general population’s amusement and ridicule.

God Bless America is a biting satire that rips apart all of the worst aspects of our culture. But more than dealing with the vapid idiocy of reality TV and caffeinated energy sports drinks, the film focuses its scorn on the sheer rudeness that humans are capable of inflicting upon one another. Frank, at a certain level, is complaining about the herd mentality of many Americans, but underlying that is his battle against a society that bullies and mocks its weakest members, making the daily lives of some so unbearable that they would rather die than live in such company. For those who hold any part of the American Dream in high regard, this film is sure to offend. Though Frank and Roxy’s reaction is extreme, the sheer frustration and feeling of impotence that lies behind their actions are all too relatable. Through his characters, Goldthwait gives voice to what, at heart, is an issue of humanity losing its sense of common decency and perspective in the face of massive, instantaneous consumption. Obviously, no one condones killing people who talk during movies, but the ludicrous self-centeredness is understandably infuriating, as is the feeling that nothing will change in our declining society.

God Bless America is a wonderfully sharp, funny film that fights tooth and nail against what is considered de rigueur behavior in modern life. The film is sure to offend more than one person, but, perhaps, that is exactly what needs to happen in order for a frank conversation to begin.

Director:   Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer:   Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr
Release Date: May 11, 2012

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