Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Film Review: God Bless America

With a tagline of "Taking out the trash, one jerk at a time" and a premise that blends Taxi Driver with Natural Born Killers, God Bless America should be a very dangerous film.  This Bobcat Goldthwait directed satire, the comic's fifth directorial effort, could have and definitely should have been much darker, much more subversive that it ends up being - though it is indeed far from light and fluffy as well - but there is still a lot of giddy, gruesome fun to be had.  Well, if you happen to be a jaded and bitter, modern pop culture weary, stupidity intolerant creature like me, then yes, there is quite a bit of giddy, gruesome fun to be had indeed.  If you are one of those who Goldthwait's film mocks - and you fans of The Jersey Shore know who you are, and should be ashamed of yourselves - then the film will probably not bring you much joy.  But then what the hell do these aforementioned cultural misanthropes know about joy anyway?

The ironically named God Bless America, is the story of Frank, a poor middle class schmuck, who after getting fired from his dead-end cubicled office job, is shut out of his spoiled brat daughter's life, and is told he has a tumor with only a little time left to live, decides to go on a murder spree rampage, by killing all those who he considers deserve to die.  Teaming up with loner teenager Roxy, Frank leaves his shitty life behind and begins gunning down everyone from reality TV stars to Glenn Beck-esque right wing hate mongers to child molesters to gossip giddy paparazzi to bible thumping gay bashing ministers and tea party idiots to a cocksure Simon Cowell-like creature to a group of people who will just not shut up in a movie theater.  Now I must admit to having had fantasies of this ilk in my life.  Perhaps not killing any of these people per se (though what happens in a fantasy, stays in a fantasy), but standing up to the utter stupidity and ignorance of humanity in one way or another.  Of course with those theater patrons who just will not shut off their phones and/or their mouths, there is a catharsis in watching their fate here - even in light of recent tragedies.  This is just a movie after all, and should not be blamed for the actions of the sick and twisted in society.

Now Goldthwait, who like me, brings his frustrations toward modern society to a boil in his writing, does hold back somewhat here, bringing his characters and their situations to the precipice of bad taste, before reeling them back in before it is too late.  This is something akin to narrative cowardice.  Playing at dark humour, as Goldthwait does rather well - films like Shakes the Clown, Sleeping Dogs Lie and World's Greatest Dad are too often overlooked pieces of societal satire that never quite go the brave distance - God Bless America seems like it wants to be that film that not only stirs the pot of both decency and controversy, but pours it over its enemy's heads in some sort of maniacal medieval maneuver.  And there are moments in this film that it does just that, and even though they never go as far as they should, or perhaps as far as I wish they would, it is still quite a twisted delight to see mini-Kardashians and blowhard Republinuts get what's coming to them.  And Joel Murray, baby brother of Bill and Brian-Doyle, as sad sack Frank and Tara Lynne Barr as the precocious Roxy, make for a rather fun modern day Bonnie and Clyde - or is that Mickey and Mallory.  Yes, this is not a film for all - all you TMZ fans out there need not apply - but it does have its fun satirical moments in spite of its lack of balls out craziness it deserves to have.

3 comments:

Stephanie Ward said...

Interesting review! I am intrigued by your premise that this movie held back from going the distance -- that it lacked balls. By the way, what is TMZ?

I didn't really like this movie, though my husband and daughter enjoyed it and I thought Joel Murray was pretty good. I just didn't think it quite worked as either a dark comedy or as something more serious.

Oh, well. I guess it worked a little bit on the level of vicarious gratification -- who hasn't wanted to run down some Westboro Baptist protestors with a car?

Kevyn Knox said...

It just seemed like it was willing to go to that so-called line between good taste and bad, but not willing, for better or for worse, to cross it.

I think it would have been a better satire that way.

As for TMZ, it is some extremely obnoxious celebrity gossip show. It is better if you don't know what it is.

And yes, I would enjoy running over some Westboro bumpkins.

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