Well, the world didn’t end. I guess that means I have to continue on my quest to review every single film I watch. Today I review Bobcat Goldthwait’s God Bless America. A film in which a middle aged man finds himself at a low point in his life due to the acts of others and so enlists the help of a young woman to gradually dispense his own form of justice on those that have contributed to the ruination of the modern world. Sounds awfully familiar… This guy doesn’t dress up in a red superhero suit you say? Oh well that makes all the difference! Click the link for my review.
So yeah, fact is God Bless America shares a few thematics with James Gunn’s Super, a film you should certainly see. Both are about a man who feels that they must take drastic measures in order to make the world a better place. In Super Frank wanted to get his wife back from the drug dealer Jaques and so donned a superhero costume to make crime shut up. In God Bless America Frank (Yes they even have the same first name) has become fed up with the lack of kindness in the world and so, after losing his job and discovering he has a brain tumour, he heads off to remove some of America’s meanness by killing it’s leading purveyors of stupidity and ill manners. Along the way both enlist the help of a semi-psychotic young woman who believes enough in both Frank’s goals that she is not only willing to kill also but is very excited by the idea.
It’s not too hard to draw comparisons between these two films but thankfully God Bless America has enough to say of it’s own that it can stand out as a quality film. Both films deliver the same basic message though. That too many people seem to have forgotten how to be decent now. In Super the message was focused on the obvious target of crime and so it was easier to get behind. God Bless America focuses on the modern culture of obscenity and a general lack of care for others displayed in the media. People using fear to get popularity. People that exploit the mentally unwell for entertainment. People that throw a hissy fit if their parents fail to provide them with the exact car they wanted for their sweet 16.
Comparison times over for reals now. God Bless America stars Joel “Brother of Bill” Murray as Frank and Tara Lynne “Walked into a” Barr as Roxy who are to God Bless America what Bonnie and Clyde were to… writing yourself into an obvious wall. They’re like Bonnie and Clyde. I messed that one up and it’s staying. It’s not even a good comparison because Frank and Roxy aren’t lovers. They’re certainly on the run though. Even if it is hard to tell as both the police officers they run into along the way don’t even recognise them from the news. As they head across America taking out the mean and unkind the message behind their murder spree gets distorted by the media. One of their victims got it, but the media station preferred to dress the murders up as being the act of anti religious terrorists out to take away the good honest ‘Mericuns freedoms. How dare they? Frank just wants people to understand that being a jerk has consequences. He talks of how some of these people deserve to die. As is typical of Goldthwait’s films it’s this certain blurred morality that keeps the film interesting to watch. You might think that these people just deserve a slap rather than being shot in the throat but for the purposes of drama, and occasionally humour, killing is a much more effective approach.
Goldthwait isn’t a showy director by any means but he is a director that can pull a strong performance from his cast. Joel Murray is believable as a deeply pained and broken man who’s maybe gone off the deep end. He’s never portrayed as a full blown psychotic, he’s actually very practical and rational about what he is doing, but what he is doing is damaging the mental stability of Roxy. She is unhinged, but manages to stay just shy of the full blown blood craving lunatic that was Libbie in Super. OK, so there’s one more comparison to Super here. Tara Lynne Barr plays her as a young girl desperate for a more exciting life. Both Joel and Tara hold the film down well and while the characters bond starts to fall apart just as they feel like they’re coming together they never stop being an interesting double act.
The main issue the film has is that, on more than one occasion, Goldthwait lays his opinions and the films message out on the table very very clearly. Early on Frank goes into a long diatribe at his job about how messed up the world is. This is a largely pointless scene as we have literally just seen him watching and experiencing all the things that are getting under his skin and the message has been clearly conveyed. In essence these scenes where Frank explains his motives are at risk of dumbing the film down to the sort of levels that are usually reserved for the sorts of entertainment he is rallying against. Goldthwait includes a few too many of these diatribes and lets the dialogue hang around too long. As I’ve said before, brevity is the soul of wit, and at times brevity is not on God Bless America’s agenda.
That is honestly the only major issue I have with God Bless America though. The film is entertaining, darkly comic at the right moments and is gifted with strong performances even when the dialogue gets weighty. Goldthwait throws in a few stylish moments to keep the visuals interesting, most notably during some of Franks dreams and the kill spree montage in the middle of the film. He utilises the dreaded shaky cam but only when it serves the purposes of the scene at hand, for example, whenever Frank is heading towards a darker path than he is already on. What we have is a solid film with a strong message that is maybe a little too heavy handed but ultimately shouldn’t damage your enjoyment.