God Bless America Dir. Bobcat Goldthwait

[Magnet Releasing; 2011]

Styles: dark comedy, smug bullshit
Others: Natural Born Killers, Bonnie and Clyde, Juno

I don’t want to be a jerk, but God Bless America kind of sucks. A bitter old guy, Frank (Joel Murray), gets laid off from his job and is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He almost kills himself but instead decides to kill a horrid teenage reality TV star. That murder turns into a spree when Frank meets disillusioned high school student Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr). They kill jerks only, which makes them jerks.

In fact, this film enacts a lot of the things it claims to despise. Roxy rips on Juno for being an overwritten, silly caricature rather than a character; the same criticism is true of Roxy. Frank rips on Woody Allen for not being able to help wanting to fuck Stacey Nelkin and/or Soon-Yi Previn; Frank himself can’t help wanting to fuck Roxy. Frank and Roxy detest a lot of privileged white people; they dream of getting away from it all by moving to France to live on a cozy little farm together. The list goes on. These could have been constructive, provoking contradictions; instead, they read rather like tone-deaf hypocrisies.

The other glaring instance of tone-deafness is the fact that the film’s main antagonist and cultural target is American Idol. That shit was played out like, what, five years ago? If you’re going to make a morality play, at least make an incisive one. Frank and Roxy really don’t inspire belief in anything, which is a big problem for a film that takes aim at ruthless cynicism and mean-spirited vanity. (Maybe because they aren’t good or even nice people themselves.) America’s a goddamn mess, but God Bless America doesn’t make it any more tolerable.

In an interview, Bobcat (seriously?) Goldthwait says of the film, “It was a Christmas present to my wife, so the catalyst was me being a cheap husband. […] It kind of was like a love letter to her, because Roxy and Frank’s conversations are the same ones we have at home. And I always say that the key to a good relationship isn’t liking the same things, it’s hating the same things, because that will make a very smooth road.” I kind of hope the dude’s wife hates this movie and files for divorce.

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