‘God Bless America’ is a little bit of ‘Natural Born Killers’, add a splash of ‘Falling Down’, plus a dash of ‘Network’, and a pinch of ‘Heathers’ for an interesting update on the as-yet-undefined “middle-aged man goes batshit nuts genre.”
Robert “Bobcat” Goldthwait, you’ll remember most likely from the 1980’s ‘Police Academy’ movies as the psychotic, crazy cop ‘Officer Zed.’
Maybe you recall Bobcat’s manic standup comedy routines which frequently began with a strange, guttural howling and screaming. Once the “shtick” was out of the way, Goldthwait was a fairly astute and funny observational comedian.
In his 2011 motion picture, ‘God Bless America’ Goldthwait shows a lot of directorial growth since his directorial debut ‘Shakes the Clown’ from 1991 and a steady hand at delivering pitch-black humor and social commentary.
‘God Bless America’ follows Frank (Joel Murray) a middle-aged man having a very tough time in life. Estranged from his family, feeling disconnected socially, and let’s not forget to mention an inoperable brain tumor, Frank is doing a quiet slow-burn from both ends of a dynamite stick.
Frank is completely aghast at the social media addicted, celebrity deifying, lacking in traditional values piles of human waste that we, as Americans, have become.
When an act of kindness from Frank results in termination from his job, he decides to check himself out of a society which put him out to pasture years before.
As Frank prepares to end his own life, he has an epiphany. Why not kill a soulless pseudo-celebrity first?
Frank’s murder of a teenage reality “star” is done is broad daylight, in front of dozens of potential witnesses. One of those witnesses, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) is not only thrilled at Frank’s choice of victims, but tracks him down to congratulate him and encourage him to kill a few more.
When Roxy and Frank team up for a murderous road trip ‘God Bless America’ traverses some territory that we’ve seen in similar movies. More linear than ‘Natural Born Killers’ and less artfully executed than ‘Taxi Driver,’ Goldthwait’s movie successfully skewers the cultural zeitgeist without preaching to his audience in this very bloody dark comedy.
Joel Murray, as Frank, delivers a thoughtful and realistic performance. Murray smartly avoids the mad hatter rantings of Peter Finch (Network) or the incendiary misunderstanding of Michael Douglas (Falling Down) and creates a character that could very well be your friend or neighbor.
Tara Lynne Barr, as Roxy, is equally good as the catalyst for the murderous spree and ersatz Bonnie to his Clyde Barrow. Roxy’s youthful enthusiasm and desire to right social wrongs are genuine, and Barr is fun to watch. Barr gives the role the right amount of believability and owns the tricky performance to balance Roxy’s anger and naiveté.
‘God Bless America’ made me curious to see what Goldthwait’s next project will be. As a director, he obviously had some intelligent points to make about the ridiculousness of our media obsessions, gun culture, and lack of human connectivity.
‘God Bless America’ would make for a wild double feature with ‘NBK’, ‘Heathers’, or ‘Network.’
Socially relevant satire is a rarity these days, as film makers and movie goers seem obsessed with supporting remakes and sequels. ‘God Bless America’ is a flawed, but welcome contribution to that genre and signals an interesting director to “keep an eye on” in Goldthwait.
Flixnerd Rating: ★★★☆☆
‘God Bless America’ is available on iTunes https://banners.itunes.apple.com/banner.html?partnerId=&aId=10l5YZ&id=510051427&c=us&l=en-US&bt=catalog&t=catalog_black&w=300&h=250