God Bless America (2011) – Review

2 1/2 Stars


Frank Murdoch has had it with the world. After having his spoiled daughter hate his guts, getting fired from his job for being nice to a co-worker and finally being diagnosed with a non-operable brain tumor he’s decided to end it. The saddest thing of all is these aren’t the defining moments of Frank’s life. He spends his insomniatic late nights parked in front of a television that spills out the true horrors of the world with reality TV, political pundits, and of course American Superstarz (an American Idol wannabe). It’s one show in particular though, that gets Frank thinking about putting off killing himself, so he can deal a little justice to a mouthy teen, Chloe, who berated her condoning parents on national television because they bought her a Lexus sedan instead of a Cadillac Escalade for her birthday. A young teenage girl, Roxanne, watches in delight as Frank shoots her classmate Chloe in the head. She tracks Frank to a motel and persuades him to reluctantly allow her to tag along as his accomplice. Together they’ll target the people who meet their criteria for deserving to die. How long can their killing spree last?

Director Bobcat Goldthwait has been known for directing incredibly dark comedies, and God Bless America is definitely the darkest thus far. There are some smart things about the script, also written by Goldthwait, but in the end it doesn’t add up to enough. The film feels very preachy with long winded didactic speeches by both stars Joel Murray (as Frank) and Tara Lynne Barr (as Roxy). It’s 105 minutes of complaint after complaint without any true resolve. The characters seem to be hyper aware and discuss everything down to the little nuances of what’s happening, they even mention their hyper awareness and discuss it. The script leaves very little for the audience to figure out on their own. This whole idea is really a decade too late anyhow, with most references coming from past events, such as Steven Clark on American Superstarz as a stand in for the 2004 William Hung audition on American Idol.

Joel Murray is a like-able guy in any situation, but the script does nothing to help the audience in liking a murderer. The people that he and Roxy kill aren’t really deserving of death. And yes, I get that this is satiric and dark, but it still needs to make sense on a base level. Sure it’s disgusting that a teenage girl walks all over her parents and makes a huge deal when she doesn’t get what she wants. But who’s worse, her or the guy that gets hung up on how she acts and in the end sees no other valid response but to put a bullet in her head? Frank comes off as perpetually pathetic, with his only winning line in the sand moment being that he won’t sleep with an underage girl, but killing one is just fine (this is also discussed in the movie, because we as an audience can’t see that comparison, we need it explained to us).

God Bless America finds too much boredom in its faults and without investing enough in its characters, but investing too much in its ideals comes off as some of the elitist crap Frank claims to have issue with. Instead of watching this, I’d check out Goldthwait’s far better last two directorial outings Sleeping Dogs Lie and World’s Greatest Dad.

Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Stars: Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr

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