02 September 2012

Film: God Bless America (2011)

Thoughts: Character actor Joel Murray puts in a mesmerizing performance as Frank; the main of 2 protagonists in Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America. Not only is his work in the film a highlight for potential viewers; the film itself is a cathartic and blood-pumping critique of everything that is currently wrong with this world and, as someone who agrees and was agreeing with practically all of the messages relayed throughout, I can wholly recommend this to anyone who is just waiting for this current world to eat itself alive.

Frank is not enjoying life. All that comes blasting through his TV set, screamed through the radio and repeated ad nauseum by the people around him is reality shows, advertising, stupidity and hate. He sees people hurting and debasing themselves in front of cameras for their fifteen minutes of fame, and he sees the rich and famous held up as gods among men, doling out their apparently meaningful opinions and judgements on those below. He watches ordinary people committing horrible acts for money or fame, and being labelled as amazing, or talented, or hilarious. The people on the radio spew hate and bigotry, senators battle one another for power via the lowest of means. He sees American Idol judges apply thumbs up or down like Caesar on his throne, to people who just want their 15 minutes. No one talks anymore, no one listens. His neighbours keep him up all night, and box his car in when he tries to leave for work each day. One day at work, a kindly gesture is misconstrued as sexual harassment, and since everything must be PC and bureaucracy is king, he's left without employment. His daughter refuses to visit because Frank is "boring, and stupid, and you don't have any computer games or cable, and you won't get me an iPhone" and later that day, he is offhandedly diagnosed with a brain tumour and given weeks to live by his distracted doctor, who takes mobile calls from a car salesman during the consult. Frank has done tours in war, Frank has tried to live his life as graciously to others as possible. And Frank has had enough. He takes his shooter, his neighbours car and his jacket, and he hits the road to kill a reality show star. Along the way, he meets the young Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) who seems to share the same disillusionment with today as Frank, and together they will rid America of its blight of hate, one idiot at a time.

Bobcat Goldthwait is no stranger to expressing his views through film. His previous effort World's Greatest Dad was an incisive, pitch black look into being a father, being loved and the lengths we go to make our deepest dreams a reality, no matter how much we lose or how little it really means in the end. In God Bless America, monologues come early and often, with Bobcat speaking volumes through his characters, taking aim at everything that is currently wrong with our rapidly failing civilization. As his mouthpiece Frank says, "What's the point of being a civilization anymore, if we can't even be civilized?" and I believe him. I was watching the flick just waiting for the moment when one of the characters would bring up something during their many, many dialogues and targets but, not once did something come up that I can be ashamed to admit I'm a member of. I don't subscribe to any current political agenda, I don't listen to any radio. I don't watch or vote for any reality shows. I don't have an opinion on gay marriage, I don't have a god I "listen" to. I'm not obsessed with anything, and I do not believe that life is anything more than a short stay on this Earthly plane. I try to be nice to everyone around me, and I try to do the best I can for my family and friends. I don't try to push my beliefs on anyone, nor do I denounce theirs as wrong. I try to make my time here as enjoyable as possible, and I try to make my stamp as little as possible on other peoples journey. God Bless America seems to posit the same, so much so that our protagonist like to run through a different code as opposed to his hot-headed young partners; that not everyone who is an idiot deserves to die, but if they're mean, then they've gotta go. And I agree. I have no time for mean-spirits, and I subscribe wholly.

Here is my favourite monologue from the film, and I agree with it 100%:

So the performances have to match this very particular view, and I'm proud to say that they do. The leads are fantastic, and encapsulate everything that is being laid out by the filmmakers. You look into Joel Murray's eyes and see a man who is so, so sad at the state of the world that he practically pities all these fools that he feels compelled to eliminate from existence. And young Tara Lynne Barr has this very venomous yet innocent streak about her, maintaining an air of adolescent immaturity that clings to her abnormally mature ways and mindset. All of the bit players are suitably game, bringing that level of exaggeration that *just* reaches the line, barely crossing into ridiculousness.

The script is perfect, with the many monologues practically entrancing. I've watched a few of them several times now and the dialogue, combined with the performances and the direction lure me in as I just take in all of the bile being spewed forth from our various players. It is really something else, and the direction suits it, providing macabre visions against the typical media-obsessed world we live in, almost parading the violence in a cartoon fashion as a necessary addition to the humour, especially since it is intrinsically linked to the story. I mean, right from the get go you have Frank busting into his neighbours house during a dream, and taking out both the father of the trio, and his always-wailing spawn with a shotgun; the blood and gore coating the mother in such a over-the-top way that you can't help but just nod and say "well alright then". If you can handle that, then find this film ASAP.

Seriously though, for anyone like my brother and I who firmly believe that we are as a society headed straight down, get this movie, and feel good knowing that there is others out there who agree with you. Plus, its just a damn good movie. I personally didn't really like the ending but, considering how it boxes itself into a corner, there really was no other way to go, so I don't hold it against it.


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