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Review: God Bless America (EIFF)


Bobcat Goldthwait established himself as one of the most exciting comedy directors in recent years after his excellent 2009 film, World's Greatest Dad. His latest film, a biting satire on contemporary culture entitled God Bless America, proves equally as enjoyable.

Frank (Joel Murray) has just lost his job, he is divorced and has just been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Growing continually disillusioned by the ever growing idiocy of our society, Frank decides to rid the world of some of its most obnoxious citizens. After taking out a repellent reality television star, Frank discovers he has an admirer - sixteen year old Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr). The pair venture out on an obscure road trip full of strangely feel good serial killing.

It is hard not to sympathise slightly with Goldthwait's view of contemporary culture, regardless of how extreme it is. This is perfectly captured in the opening where Frank flicks through television channels, capturing society's obsession with fame, celebrities and social networking. Frank falls asleep watching a contestant being exploited on reality singing contest 'American Superstars' and wakes up to see the said contestant, the talking point of Breakfast Television. Other delights that Frank witnesses include "Tuff Girls" where one girl throws a bloodied tampon at another. This may be a rather extreme and blatant depiction of contemporary culture, but there is an alarming truth in Goldthwait's message.

Goldthwait's film is consistently amusing and boasts an enjoyably twisted feel good quality. We all harbour a small hatred for the people that talk in cinemas, extreme religious fundamentalists and obnoxious children, so it is hard not to be on Frank's side throughout. Of course, you could compare God Bless America to a drunken Grandparent's rant - complaining about all the things that annoy them, as Goldthwait does have a tendency to preach to the viewer, regardless to how thought provoking some of his points may be. This is completely evident in God Bless America's limp finale where it appears Goldthwait's message has stretched as far as is possible - it is the equivalent of the drunken Grandparent now falling asleep.

One of the strongest elements of God Bless America is they dynamic between the characters of Frank and Roxy. To Frank, Roxy provides a welcome alternative to his vile daughter - sharing his distaste of American culture. Roxy finds an escape from the tedium of her everyday life in the company of Frank. What results is a completely charming, relationship between the two - bonding over their various hates in society.

Joel Murray's understated performance is particularly fascinating, with the actor managing to capture Frank's struggles as a man who has been told he does not have long to live, alongside his growing hatred towards society and his somewhat sociopathic tendencies - yet still be completely likeable. After a shaky start, it is hard to find yourself not warming to Tara Lynne Barr's performance - with the eager young sociopath becoming quite endearing. God Bless America is a thoroughly entertaining watch, which may also help challenge the way we look at contemporary culture. Goldthwait's message ultimately runs out of steam in the end, despite magnetic lead performances from Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr throughout.

Rating: 3.5/5
Originally posted on The People's Movies
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