God Bless America is not for the faint-hearted. It is however, for those who appreciate an insightful satire on today’s world, especially the mass-consumption of America. Directed by comedian/writer/producer Bobcat Goldthwait, it comes wrapped up in a generous helping of comedy that will make you laugh in spite of yourself.
The lead character Frank, played by Joel Murray (The Artist, Mad Men) is an average middle-aged man living in Middle America who is wholly unsatisfied with life. After his doctor informs him that he is terminally ill, he is stopped from taking his own life by the realisation that there are so many other people in the world who really do deserve to die. So, he decides to go on a killing rampage instead.
Frank finds an unlikely alliance in the 16-year-old Roxy, played by Tara Lynne Barr (We All Fall Down, Roadkill), who has just about as much hatred for society as he does. Together, they form a friendship that is surprisingly touching, despite the fact that what draws them together is a love of killing people. Yes, the subject matter is quite shocking, however we watch so many other films these days with violence at their heart and the big difference with this film is that it is purely tongue-in-cheek.
There is no effort made to hide the satirical qualities of God Bless America, however this is not a bad thing. Instead of being a subtle story that you have to read into, it slaps you in the face with its message. When deciding who to kill next, the pair have countless conversations with Roxy saying things like “do you take requests? Because I was thinking maybe some Kardashians, my gym coach. People who give high fives. Really, any jock. Twihards. People who talk about punk rock…” It is these conversations that make the audience nod along in agreement and laugh out loud at their surprising perceptiveness.
While this is essentially a film about a depressed man who goes on a killing spree, there are a few elements that make his character surprisingly accessible and likeable. He only bumps off people who he thinks deserve to die and everyone that meets a sticky end has previously been shown in the film to be extremely annoying. Also, Frank refuses to look at Roxy as someone he could be attracted to, despite her bringing up this subject. She points out that he is fine with killing people but will not sleep with a minor… thus showing, in his own way, that he at least has some morals.
This film is a dark comedy that satirises not only the countless things that many people find annoying, but many things that are just plain wrong with society today. From the reality show culture to the obsession with money and material possessions, it draws attention to the world’s flaws in depressingly sharp focus. The vehicle through which much of this is conveyed are the many monologues which Frank spews out onto whoever is listening, making the audience wonder at the sheer sharpness and talent with which the words are put together. The graphic violence is offset by the genuinely funny comedy and ender moments between the two central characters.
Despite its unusual and at times uncomfortable subject-matter, this is a beautifully made film with wonderful music and a message that is real and hard-hitting . It may shock, because the realism of the killings make us so aware of the cartoon-like nature of so much film violence. God Bless America does not stop at the usual boundaries and this makes it very memorable. It is out in cinemas on 4th July and on DVD on 9th July. To decide if it is your thing, you can view the trailer here.
Tickets are available to the London premiere of God Bless America followed by a Q&A with Bobcat Goldthwait on 4 July at the Prince Charles Cinema.