SXSW 2012: “God Bless America” — Review by Matt “The Movie Analyst”

Average Joe Kills Reality Stars

By Matt the Movie Analyst

God Bless America is a film about media, depression, and feeling isolated in this world. At the same time, it’s an intelligent satire about annoying people you’d like to strangle but can’t. The story follows Frank (Joel Murray) who is both confused and disgusted by the self-obsessed, mean, and utterly stupid society surrounding him. Celebrities and athletes are worshiped, political opinion commentators are considered legitimate news, and reality TV featuring functionally retarded skanks are the popular entertainment — Frank has had enough.  After losing his wife, his child’s affection, and his job for giving an office worker flowers, Frank discovers that he has a brain tumor and decides to make a difference by killing  nasty people who are part of society’s problem. The adventure continues when Frank joins up with jaded high school student Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) and they escalate their killing spree with hefty doses of cynicism and humor until the very end. It’s like Bonnie and Clyde without the awkward sex.

Though the film is absolutely dark, it stays comical because Frank and Roxy kill people who are, well, annoying bastards. Much of the violence plays off screen so it avoids being disgustingly graphic. Instead, reaction shots and facial expressions reveal the frustration that these characters go through even when ‘popping a cap’ into an unworthy star. Similarly, a great deal of laughs come from Frank simply staring with a dead blank expression when the baby next door cries, his neighbors are too loud, and he is bombarded with a barrage of mind numbing TV while taking pills and drinking booze.  Scenes of Frank being emotionally water-boarded by reality TV are mixed with dead-on parodies and satires of programs that are all too familiar — teenage divas, adorable farting animals, and lame singing contests with participants who belong in karaoke bars rather than national stages.

From religious fanatics and loud people in theaters to modern music lovers and high-five enthusiasts, Frank and Roxy rant throughout the film about everything they can’t stand. These hard-hitting yet delightful monologues take up a large chunk of the film, but can sometimes come across as a bit preachy. These diatribes also bring Frank and Roxy closer as the two bond in mutual disgust of the masses. The refreshing relationship unfolds in very odd ways, like a heart-warming scene in the woods where the two blast away teddy bears as target practice, and their shared dry banter is more charming than anyone would expect.

Director Bobcat Goldthwait uses very dynamic and memorable shots throughout the film that work well. These interesting choices start at the beginning with a slow overhead shot of his neighbors watching television that then cuts through the ceiling and walls to show Frank’s predicament. When Frank and Roxy stay in a motel and must share a bed, their heads are at each other’s feet while having a conversation. Small decisions like these really push the film in an exciting direction. All in all, God Bless America is a film for those who have ever been disgusted or shocked by modern media and society, but it may bore and offend those who think that everything is great and covered with smiley-faced rainbows. To either audience though, just make sure that you don’t talk in the theater.

Matt the Movie Analyst’s final verdict: 9/10

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