09
Jun
12

God Bless America (2011): Aiming for The Dream

a Primal Root written review

God Bless America (2011):  Aiming for The Dream

I haven’t had cable television in over a decade. I refuse to pay for something that every time I flip it on I feel as if my brain is steadily being churned into chunky apple sauce. This is not to say that I don’t know what’s on there. On occasion, I have sat and witnessed what most of our nation happily plops down and allows to be broadcast into our living rooms every evening.  You know, for the entire family to enjoy. Let’s just say, it’s mildly disturbing. What are the repercussions of such resignation on our society? A world where our entire culture and society is saturated with celebrity gossip, ugly, degrading reality television, and political pundits who would rather preach hate and intolerance than have an intelligent and respectful discussion?

Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest directorial effort, “God Bless America”, takes on this disheartening concept in the form of a deeply dark, satirical comedy. It’s got something for everyone who’s sick of  the “Oh, no, you didn’t!” generation that’s grown up planted on a couch, glued to the screen, all but lobotomized, and no longer concerned with discerning thought, open-mindedness, respect, common courtesy, or even kindness. It’s a generation of people who demand respect, but don’t give it in return, who demand to be heard but refuse to listen,  who know they come first and the rest of the world just doesn’t fucking matter.  Of course, this is a “fictional” world that our protagonist, Frank, inhabits, right? A middle aged, middle class, divorced parent who also happens to be a war veteran.  He must deal with his obnoxious neighbors who don’t seem to mind their 24/7/365 wailing infant, and talk loudly and incessantly (over their screaming offspring) about occurrences on their favorite TV shows and the latest gossip on Bradgelina.
Frank is aware of this drought in the human spirit. That we have sold it for a fast food and soulless culture that worships greed and selfishness over compassion and selflessness.  Frank sits in his living room flipping through the channels as photoshopped pictures of President Obama dressed up as Adolf Hitler are promoted as some kind of warped sense of reality, a random, class-act reality TV star pulls out her bloody tampon and angrily splats it across the face of her costar who, I can only assume, crossed her (the details of their quarrel are lost among beeped-out dialogue). It’s a sick, sad world Frank lives in.  And not even he ever-cool “Daria” kind. To make matters worse, Frank has just lost his job, been informed he has an inoperable, fatal brain tumor growing in his noggin, and his pre-teen daughter refuses to come visit him flipping her shit over receiving a Blackberry instead of an iPhone for her birthday.
Frank can’t take it anymore, but just as he wraps his lips around the barrel of a Glock the blue light of the television screen spills over him.  “My Super Sweet 16” is on and an entitled high schooler is cursing and berating her parents in a self-righteous rage after she is presented with a top o’ the line vehicle that is NOT the one she had envisioned.  Frank comes to the epiphany that the gun he’s holding is pointed in the wrong direction.  Our hero ends up on a road trip to off the outrageous brat he blames for his own daughter’s (and the general world’s) ridiculously selfish behavior.  However, he, also, winds up inspiring and being inspired by a teenage girl, Roxy, who’s just as disillusioned and angry at the egomaniacally brain-dead society they are forced to abide.  Or are they?  They lock, load, and go on a rampage laying waste to those assholes who talk and text during movies, jerks who take up two full parking spaces, and hate mongers who stand at the side of the road holding signs declaring “God Hates Fags”. Frank and Roxy gun them down and mow them over with glee.  I can’t help but chuckle at the carnage as these people are decimated and punished for being a part of a “civilization that is no longer interested in being civilized”.
As is the case with Bobcat’s previous work, God Bless America will have you laughing with dark revelry as those who make everyday life a constant struggle finally mess with with the wrong nice guy.  Also typical of Bobcat, despite the deeply-etched satirical pitch-black edge, the filmmaker manages to imbue this work with genuine, human emotion, poignancy, and thought-provoking pathos.  Joel Murray, the instantly recognizable character, is amazing as Frank.  He infuses the role with so much heart and believability that you cannot help but root for the guy, whether due to or despite his impressive body count.  Roxy,Tara Lynne Barr, as Frank’s young sidekick and voice of the younger generation  is a firecracker, a natural whose sassy, fun performance, keeps the film well-paced and peppy.
God Bless America is a sometimes graphic, often profane and funny for most of its running time. However, by film’s end it starts to register that this is the same violent and malicious motivation that drives those who blow up abortion clinics or lynch people because of the color of their skin. The killers we profess to despise believe they are murdering those “who deserve to die” too, right?  The first 45 minutes of God Bless America starts out blazingly funny as it lampoons pop culture and society at large, but as it winds to a close the viewer may begin to wonder, have both Frank and Roxy steadily descended into the mean-spirited people they were trying to destroy?  God Bless America is hilarious, tragic, sometimes uncomfortable,  frequently challenging, and totally uncompromising.  It’s the kind of film that doesn’t come around very often, anymore.  One that asks some nasty questions, takes an angry stance, and asks the audience to internalize these things. That they sincerely ask themselves just what the fuck they make of it all.
And keep your eyes peeled for TV’s Frank from MST3K in a brief cameo.  Guck-Ga-Yuuuuw!
Stay Trashy!
-Root

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