EIFF 2012: God Bless America

A perfect remedy to the amount of subtitled and slow burn films on offer, Bobcat Goldthwait’s GOD BLESS AMERICA is a sublime slice of dark and twisted anarchy that fires up the brain cells whilst providing a whole lot of mindless hilarity.

When Frank (Joel Murray) finds out he is terminally ill, the state of our celebrity obsessed and uneducated society is enough to make him want to put a bullet in his head. However, the thought of gunning these social irritants down is far more appealing and so Frank goes on a mission to wipe them off the planet alongside teenage runaway, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr).

With stunningly intelligent opening and closing monologues that bring the whole thing full circle, Joel Murray’s deadpan delivery and conviction that he is always doing the right thing elevates Frank into an antihero that we can root for – even if it may be hard to completely forget about Rainn Wilson’s own Frank in SUPER. The parallels to the 2010 film don’t stop there, with it rather easy to compare Roxy to a younger Ellen Page, which is sent up when Frank refers to her as JUNO, much to her annoyance. So much annoyance, in fact, that she refers to Diablo Cody as ‘the only stripper who suffers from too much self esteem.’

With this reaction aired about Cody and characters such as ‘Tampon-Throwing Tuff Girl’ on the cast list, Goldthwait commits so steadfastly to this blunt and one-track opinion that some may find it rather suffocating and one note. But where it works so brilliantly is in how it never takes itself seriously, resulting in a plot that doesn’t require plausibility or veils a hidden message that this is what we should go out and do.

GOD BLESS AMERICA has an incredibly on point understanding of the borderline static coma a media-driven world can suck people into. The parodies of shows such as American Idol and My Super Sweet 16 are so spot-on that you worry just how much of the mindless pap Goldthwait lapped up in the research stages, when they are barely, if at all, exaggerated. Where it could have been easier and more realistic to utilise actual clips from the MTV generation’s go-to entertainment, the use of these barely disguised spoofs makes it far funnier and really does prove just how much Goldthwait has tapped into what is fundamentally wrong with that part of American culture.

The question of originality does pop up on more than one occasion, but Frank has no formal training with a gun as far as we know and so, ironically, would be using the media as his point of reference. With direct quotes from Jackie Brown (it’s all about the AK-47), Tarantino’s influence is often felt and Roxy is undoubtedly a character he could have whipped up. The only real niggle with her character comes down to a legitimate sense of reasoning for why she has joined Frank’s quest. Boredom may be one, but for the most part she appears to be the figurehead for the few (in Frank’s, and therefore probably Goldthwait’s mind) teenagers who prefer Alice Cooper to Glee.

Opening with talk of Lindsay Lohan and Michael Jackson, GOD BLESS AMERICA rarely targets anyone specific for more than a quick, impossibly blunt one-liner, preferring to use its Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest replacements to avoid any direct identification. And, where the large dose of American politics may whiz straight over the heads of European audiences, this is still a surprisingly accessible film.

Serving as a massive pipedream where violence and carnage are key if we are to achieve the ultimate tolerance and mutual appreciation the world is so sorely lacking, GOD BLESS AMERICA handles its violence and intelligence with delectable ease. Just be warned – you better like it dark.

aroundtheweb
Pint-sized freelance film journalist. Editor of iamnotwaynegale.com, Reviews Editor at The Hollywood News and contributor to others. Awaiting a Hardy/Hiddleston/Cumberbatch/Fassbender/Gosling team-up.

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