After the likes of Sleeping Dogs and World’s Greatest Dad, comedian-turned-director Bobcat Goldthwait returns with God Bless America, a scathing satire on modern American culture, consumerism and the media which takes aim at everything from talent shows and Twilight to Juno and mass produced anarchy t-shirts. And the type of film that you have to throw your hands up and just go along with to enjoy.
Joel Murray plays Frank, a middle-aged office worker with a possible brain tumour and insufferable neighbours who has grown increasingly fed up with what American culture has become. After one of the bad contestants on the country’s biggest talent show becomes the object of ridicule-driven fame Frank finally snaps, murdering a high school teenager who was the feature of a reality TV show and going on a cross-country killing spree, with a disillusioned teenage girl, Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), along for the ride.
Provocative and not exactly subtle, it’s a film that will cater only to a certain type of audience who gets Goldthwait’s brand of jet black humour and aren’t, it goes without saying, easily offended. It’s at its best when directly satirising American TV, in particular some early sequences in which Frank channel-hops and goes from one insufferably shallow reality TV show to the next.
It’s only when the film dispenses, for the most part, with those small pleasures and turns into a twisted Bonnie & Clyde meets Natural Born Killers road movie that it falters, if only because it attempts emotion when it doesn’t really have the means to back it up. There is, however, a surprising sweetness to the film at times thanks largely to the performance of Murray, who dives into the role at the deep end and manages to be as effective in the over-the-top moments as he is in the quieter ones.
It may be a bit on the long side, stretching an idea out further than it needs to be, and perhaps a bit too one-note in how it approaches the satire. But God Bless America is nevertheless a clever, often shocking comedy which has its finger on the pulse of American culture while at the same time smashing at it with a hammer. Gutsy comedy filmmaking.