Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review of GOD BLESS AMERICA (2012)

- Rated R for strong violence and language including some sexual sequences.
- Starring Joel Murray, Tara Lynn Barr
- Written & Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
- Running time: 1hr 44min

Bobcat Goldthwait is one fucked up individual... and God bless him for that!  I haven't seen his first 2 films as a filmmaker (SHAKES THE CLOWN and SLEEPING DOGS LIE), but I saw his third movie, WORLD'S GREATEST DAD.  It was a pretty dark comedy that I almost liked.  It didn't quite gel for me in the second half, but I did like the premise and thought that Robin Williams gave a nice, twisted performance.  Of course, Bobcat is more known for being an 80's comic icon as he was in the POLICE ACADEMY movies, ONE CRAZY SUMMER and HOT TO TROT, which I have a framed poster of in my kitchen (next to GOING APE!).

All of his previous work seems like Shirley Temple movies compared to his latest, which stars Joel Murray as Frank, an ordinary schlub who is sick to death of pop culture and the way society has become. He lives alone after his wife left him for a cop, and his daughter wants nothing to do with him.  After getting unjustly fired from his job, Frank is about to blow his brains out, but then stops when something on the television catches his eye.  It's one of those MTV style "my sixteenth birthday" shows, and the girl is an extremely spoiled bitch who is evil to her parents.  Frank takes the gun out of his mouth and the next day he finds the girl on the show and murders her.

Roxy attends the same High School of the girl that was murdered.  She sees Frank kill her and asks him if she can be his partner in crime.  At first, he says no, but she eventually wins him over and the two begin a killing spree, blowing away every jerk that they come across.  If you're talking and texting during a movie... you're dead!  Double parked your truck... BANG!

As you can see, this movie is just twisted as fuck!  And you know what?  I actually sort of loved it.  This really struck a chord with me because at this moment, I am disgusted with the current society in America today.  I personally don't understand a world where people get a kick out of idiotic youtube videos, making fun of lousy singers on American Idol, and countless pointless reality shows.  I just don't get it.  I feel out of touch.  And the common consumer just seems to be a selfish cheesedick.  I hate people that take up two parking spots.  I hate people that text and talk during a movie. I can't believe there are people out there that have no common courtesy to the people around them.  No respect.

Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait also seems to be frustrated by these things.  This entire film is like him venting out his anger and frustrations with society.  The movie opens with a dark and disturbing sequence that has Frank fantasizing about shooting his neighbors with a shotgun, including blowing away their newborn baby, splattering it's blood all over the mother.  It was a fierce slap in the face that grabbed my attention.  This movie will shake you up and take you places you would've never thought up on your own.  Goldthwait's mind is severely twisted.  But what a ride it is!  Oh yeah, did I mention that this movie is a comedy.  It's jawdroppingly hilarious!  You'll laugh, but then will feel guilty for laughing.  I love movies that make me uncomfortable.  Remember how dark HEATHERS was?  Well, this is 10 times darker!

Joel Murray (yes, brother of Bill) fits perfectly as an everyman who has had enough.  His deadpan delivery and limited facial expressions create a pretty memorable character.  Even though he's a murderer, I still found myself cheering for him.  Not that I think anyone should be murdered in real life, but it was fun seeing Frank live out my deepest darkest fantasies.  Come on.  Haven't you ever wanted to strangle someone who was texting next to you during a movie?  Drives me nuts.  Now I would never hurt anyone in a million years, but seeing it in a movie gave me morbid satisfaction.  Tara Lynne Barr is also excellent as Roxy, the 16 year old who joins Frank.  Her enthusiasm towards the suffering of the assholes of society was scary.  But funny too.  Her and Murray have surprisingly touching chemistry.  Even though Roxy flirts with Frank, he insists that they remain strictly platonic.  Their bond grows throughout the film.

The script is a giant rant, but it's a welcome one.  There are several moments that have Frank and Roxy giving speeches about what they hate about society, whether it's American Idol, Nascar, certain phrases that people say, and much more.  And they're usually very funny!  I mean, how can I not love a movie when a character spends a minute and a half explaining why Diablo Cody should die.  YAY!  This movie definitely won me over.  Besides writing a riotous script, Goldthwait's direction is really good too.  His creative shot choices help create a sort of semi-fantasy environment.  It never feels like it's that realistic, which is why the humor came across so well for me.  But this isn't lighthearted.  It's ultraviolent!  The finale for me was ultimately satisfying and it's debatable whether it's a downer or not.  But one thing I know is that after watching it, I was exhilarated.

There were some budget limitations that showed, and I think the finale could've have been a little bigger in scope (more extras), but otherwise it fit the bill for me.  If you don't like dark comedies, run like the plague.  And if you do like dark comedies, you still might not like it.  It's THAT dark!  GOD BLESS AMERICA is a movie that goes all the way and doesn't look back.  Mr. Bobcat Goldthwait has made one ballsy movie.  It's an honest, brave, revealing, shockingly funny and violent motion picture.  If you're one of those people who are fed up with the assholes that populate our world, then instead of shooting them, go see this movie now (playing at Landmark's Lagoon in Uptown) to let off some steam.  You'll feel better.  I know I did.

***1/2 (out of ****)

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