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rochefort [Film Festival 03.11.12] action comedy cult crime

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Year: 2012
Directors: Bobcat Goldthwait
Writers: Bobcat Goldthwait
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 8 out of 10

Inspired by Network, director Bobcat Goldthwait has updated the socially-conscious vigilante story, and God Bless America is a violent and extremely timely encouragement to everyone who wonders how America became so enamored of Kim Kardashian, Jersey Shore, American Idol, and all the patron saints of cruelty and insipidity...


Frank (Joel Murray) has had enough. He has the worst neighbors in the world, has just lost his job because a paranoid co-worker has falsely accused him of sexual harassment, is father to a spoiled daughter who manipulates his ex-wife like a pro, and to top it all off his doctor informs him that he has terminal cancer and is not long for this world. His initial reaction to this final bit of news is to put a bullet through his head, but he decides that first he'll do the world a favor and rid it of a screeching Paris Hilton-type who is the star of a primetime reality show. Schoolgirl Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) witnesses the murder, then hunts Frank down and expresses her wide-eyed approval, convincing him to take her along on a cross-country crusade to violently rid the country of its rudest and meanest.

Inspired by Network, director Bobcat Goldthwait has updated the socially-conscious vigilante story, and God Bless America is a violent and extremely timely encouragement to everyone who wonders how America became so enamored of Kim Kardashian, Jersey Shore, American Idol, and all the patron saints of cruelty and insipidity. The film takes full advantage of the creative freedom allowed by its extremely low budget and goes all in, lambasting (and subsequently murdering) everything from shock jocks to people who talk on their cell phones in movie theaters.

Frank, a pretty obvious surrogate for Goldthwait himself, is a crack shot who mentors Roxy about common decency and kindness, all while simultaneously training her in marksmanship so the two of them can do hits on those people they judge too mean to deserve to live. It's rich stuff, especially considering that this modern-day Bonnie and Clyde are enforcing key liberal values by exercising the right to bear arms.

And while it's tempting to lump this latest film in with movies like Taxi Driver, Falling Down, etc., there are a few key differences that go a long way to upping its relevance for our day and age. Most interestingly, Frank is never depicted as insane or even hot-tempered, his actions completely consistent with his worldview. Roxy is a different story at first, convinced that Frank will be the enabler that helps her bump off everybody that annoys her, and Frank schools her patiently about the difference between people who spread hate and those who are just plain dumb. And God Bless America isn't really true satire (in the Q&A Goldthwait even admitted as much), since the many depictions of celebrities, commercials, FOX-style talk show hosts and the like are barely exaggerated at all; when reality is already this messed-up, the movie seems to be saying, what need would there be to misrepresent it to make the point? And since the budget is pretty minuscule, we're treated to a lot of dialogue scenes wherein Frank and Roxy elaborate on everything they think is wrong with Americans, and these laundry lists do go on a little long at times. But it serves its purpose well enough; there should really be no doubt by film's end if you're on board with the underlying message, regardless of where you stand on the violence throughout.

It's always tempting to jump on any bandwagon that affirms one's own moral superiority, and tons of movies are more than happy to do so for the Blue State set. It's entirely possible the audience for a movie like this one will enter the theater expecting an affirmation and pat on the back for their political leanings or progressive social agendas, but I found the film to be made of simpler stuff than this. God Bless America, despite those moments that veer into preachiness, is ultimately not trying to school us how to be better people; it's pleading with us to at least try a little harder to treat each other with basic dignity. That it does so by splattering a teenager's brains across her windshield is, well… maybe that's what it takes to make any lasting point these days.



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agentorange (2 years ago) Reply

"people who talk on their cell phones in movie theaters"

The first against the wall in the revolution.

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Redstater (2 years ago) Reply

I would be all over this if the heroes were just bumping off the Jersey Shore cast or the judges on American Idol. It's when movies like this veer into the territory of preaching that anyone with Republican or Conservative political views is sub-human and deserves to die that they start to enter dicey territory.

I want you to imagine if the roles were reversed and the film depicted obnoxious liberals. Such as the self-righteous Smart Car driver who lectures his neighbors for driving an SUV (even though they have five children). The paranoid feminist who sees sexism everywhere. Then set up an "everyman" Red Stater who goes on a murder spree. Suddenly, I don't think you'd feel too comfortable in that theater.

The point I'm trying to make is that films like God Bless America or The Last Supper are really poisonous vitriol and don't deserve the high marks they usually get.

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Maxwell (2 years ago) Reply

MSNBC would be all over that movie, claiming that the movie "shows the pervasiveness of violence through out the Tea Party".

Granted, I'd love to see that movie.

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rochefort (2 years ago) Reply

Hey Redstater, I'm pretty sure Goldthwait is nowhere near conservative, but this movie actually doesn't spend much of its energy targeting any particular political group or stance. If you get a chance to see it, I think you'll be surprised that the bad guys are targeted for their rudeness and idiocy, and not their party affiliation. And for the record, that "everyman" movie you propose could actually be really interesting, if done well, and I'd see it in a heartbeat.


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