Finally, a movie for the rest of us. A middle aged man suffering from a brain tumor gangs up with a psychopathic sixteen year old girl to rid America of reality TV stars, religious bigots, loudmouthed pundits, and annoying theater talkers in God Bless America. Comedian and cult filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait pulls writing and directing duties and Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Bar star in this twisted little comedy.
The movie follows Frank as his life is beginning to implode around him: he’s divorced and his small daughter hates him, he’s just lost his job, he’s just discovered that he has incurable cancer, and his TV and radio won’t stop spewing an incessant stream of shit into his eye and ear holes. When he sees a particularly spoiled brat acting all cunty on a My Super Sweet 16 clone, he decides to share his pain before shuffling off this mortal coil. After executing the entitled little monster, Frank picks up Roxy and the two go on a road trip around America, stopping along the way to see the sites and to waste stand-ins for the Westboro Baptist Church and Bill O’Reilly among other nasty undesirables.
The two lead actors provide the movie with its greatest strength. Joel Murray plays Frank as if the man is quietly drowning in every scene. Everything from his slumped posture to his flat, deadpan delivery of dialogue conveys the essence of a man who has suffered fools far longer than he can bear.
Tara Lynne Barr is fantastic as Roxy, his foul mouthed little accomplice. She gives a nice homicidal twist on the manic pixie dream girl popularized by Zooey Deschanel; she’s sunshine personified even while she’s gunning down the audience of American Idol with an AK-47. The performance will probably draw comparisons to Ellen Page’s much praised turn in Super, but I think Barr is better. She’s somehow more adorable and energetic and yet also more malicious. When Warner Bros. eventually gets around to portraying Harley Quinn in a Batman movie, the result will probably look something like Barr’s performance here.
God Bless America could have benefited from a twenty minute shave, however. The two main characters spend almost as much time talking about who they would like to kill as they do actually killing them. Frank gives three or four long winded speeches lamenting the death of civility in America and railing against the crass, vitriolic idiots reveling in its demise. That’s unfortunate because Joel Murray comes across here as one of those actors who can say a lot with just an expression; he doesn’t need to verbalize disdain for the people he’s fighting against.
And yet, Frank’s and Roxy’s relationship is based solely on what they hate. They gab to each other about how they hate political pundits, how they hate reality TV stars, how they hate country music, how they hate Diablo Cody, etc. A friendship built on that foundation can’t be healthy, but then I suppose spree killing isn’t healthy either. It’s also a little boring, because watching two characters kill people is far more interesting than watching them talk about killing people. By the time Frank launches into a final impassioned spiel before a room full of cameras, I was kind of ready for him to stop talking. I already knew where he and Bobcat Goldthwait stood on almost every matter concerning contemporary politics and pop culture.
This flaw likely resulted from the fact that the movie had a limited budget. Goldthwait tends to make his films fast and cheap, thus affording him complete creative freedom. But filming mayhem costs money; filming a man in an office or a hotel room talking about creating mayhem is comparatively inexpensive. Still, there are plenty of violent and hilarious gags to go around, and the excision of fifteen or twenty minutes of dialogue would likely have resulted in a more ferocious satire.
When the movie is funny, it is borderline hysterical. Blood flows freely, and every act of brutality by the protagonists is satisfying. Goldthwait has never pulled his punches—this is the same guy who made Sleeping Dogs Lie, a movie about a woman who gives a blowjob to her dog. When the film drags, it still manages to be occasionally funny and thought provoking. So, if you’re like Frank, and you’ve had it up to here with the Kardashians of the world, you should definitely see this movie.