Thursday, 14 March 2013

God Bless America

God Bless America

Divorced, alone and depressed, Frank (Joel Murray) is having a very bad day.  He’s been unjustly fired from his job after 11 years and his doctor’s just told him he’s terminally ill.  His daughter wants nothing to do with him, his neighbours are selfish morons and he’s sick to his stomach of the world around him, of the dumbing down of society, the celebration of mediocrity. 
On the brink of suicide, Frank is saved by the one thing he hates most: reality television.  Just as he’s about to blow his brains out, he finds himself watching a My Super Sweet 16-style TV show featuring rich, loathsome teenager Chloe (Maddie Hasson) and decides that before he checks out he’s going to take out some trash; he’s going to kill the worst, the rudest, the cruelest, the most obnoxious, the most repellent, the most uncivilized members of society.  And he’s going to start with Chloe.
However, Frank’s execution of the obnoxious teenager is witnessed by Chloe’s classmate, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), who shares his disgust with modern American society and forces him into accepting her as his disciple/partner-in-crime.  Like a latter-day Bonnie and Clyde (Roxy even buys them similar hats; a fedora for him, a beret for her), the mismatched duo set off on a cross-country murder spree, killing homophobic ministers, right-wing talk show hosts, reality TV stars, people who talk during movies…their rampage finally culminating in their invasion of the live final of an American Idol-style talent show being broadcast across the country. 
If you’re a new parent or are particularly squeamish, maybe you should give God Bless America a miss.  In the opening scenes, as a combination of blinding headaches, insomnia, reality television and next door’s squealing baby causes our protagonist’s sanity to unravel, Frank does something so jaw-dropping, so transgressive, so downright wrong you’ll either storm from the cinema in disgust or you’ll be left gasping and weak, snorting with shocked, guilty laughter.  Best stay in your seat otherwise you may miss the blackest black comedy to come out of America in decades.
The plot may be paper-thin and its riffs on popular culture and the state of our society may feel a little like disjointed stand up routines (in fact, director Goldthwait has used some of this material in his stand up gigs) but God Bless America is a scabrously funny, raging howl of despair at what we’re becoming.  Frank may be watching fictional shows like Tuff Girls where two arguing reality TV stars remove and throw their used tampons at each other or talent shows like American Superstarz where the judges exploit the vulnerable and disabled but take a look at shows like The Only Way Is Essex or the X Factor and ask yourself: just how wide of the mark is Goldthwait?  A dancing dog named Pudsey won this year’s Britain’s Got Talent.  More people voted for him than for our current Prime Minister.  A dancing f**king dog!  What more proof do you need that Rome is burning and the barbarians are at the gates? 
As our May to December heroes, Joel Murray (younger sibling of Bill) and Tara Lynn Barr are excellent.  He’s a fundamentally decent man who’s had enough, she’s a motor-mouthed, potentially sociopathic teenager (but what teenager isn’t a sociopath).  Juno with an AK47 even if she hates Diablo Cody with a passion.  Their victims may not deserve to die but do they deserve to live?  Frank and Roxy’s reaction to the worst aspects of our culture may be a little extreme but be honest; who among us has never fantasised about walking onstage and machine-gunning Simon Cowell?  Goldthwait’s biting, razor-sharp satire taps into the impotent rage and frustration we’ve all felt in the face of humanity’s increasing inhumanity.  He’s not condoning the urge to shoot that cinema-goer sat behind you who talks and texts their way through the movie; he’s just acknowledging it     
As Frank says to one of his co-workers: "Why have a civilisation anymore if we no longer are interested in being civilised?"  Sharp, funny, caustic and courageous, God Bless America is a rallying call for everyone who’s ever found themselves wondering just what the hell the Kardashians are for? 
David Watson

Written and Directed by:
Produced by:
1 hour 45 minutes
UK Release Date:
4th of July 2012

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