Frank (Joel Murray) lives on his own, fed up with the deterioration of society due to mind numbing television programmes and idiotic presenters, his life hits rock bottom when he is fired from his mundane office job and told by his doctor that he has a brain tumour. He has nothing left to lose, his young daughter, who lives with his divorced wife, hates him and is a materialistic brat and he has no friends. So he decides to end it all, but before that he acts out on his hate for one particularly annoying reality TV star and ends up with an understanding accomplice who encourages him to continue the good work. Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) is a high school student who sees Frank’s point of view and despises all sorts of people, including those that ‘high five ’and Diablo Cody. Together the two become a modern day Bonnie and Clyde, ridding the world of the inconsiderate, the stupid and the bigoted.
The opening of the film sees Frank day dreaming about shooting his noisy, brainless neighbours with their incessant crying baby. The tone for this dark film is set immediately when Frank briefly hesitates and then shoots the baby, the camera of course cuts away but then flashes back to a parent drenched in blood. Straight away we understand the frustration Frank is filled with and instantly we comprehend what kind of film this will be; no holds barred with an outrageousness that is both shocking and hilarious.
God Bless America certainly has a lot in common with Charlie Brooker’s television mini series Black Mirror and the ideas being conveyed are not particularly original. However, the two main characters and the abundance of references make it feel like there are some new points to make. As Frank channel hops during an evening at home he watches extracts from teen reality shows, adverts for superfluous products and a music competition looking for the next big singing star; American Superstarz. There are plenty of digs at popular culture and our heroes exact their revenge on society by offing as many dumb celebrities as possible, building to a bloodbath finale that will satisfy the darkest of satirical fans. It is interesting to also draw comparisons with Sightseers (2012), showing at this year’s CFF as well, a British film about a couple who kill litter bugs and haughty middle class walkers, God Bless America focuses much more on popular culture as the culprit rather than sociopathic tendencies but the similarities are there.
There does seem to be a backlash of television programmes and films at the moment that are intelligently confronting the downward spiral of popular culture. God Bless America is not the most adept out of these but it is still an exhilarating ride. The acting from the two leads is fantastic. Joel Murray, brother of Bill Murray and having the same dry wit as his sibling, is perfect as the disillusioned Frank and Tara Lynne Barr is great as the charismatic and older than her years Roxy.
The satire is extremely obvious in the film and does feel rather limited to a single joke but luckily it is a good joke and the dark humour is spot on. With their thrift store vintage clothes, the characters do at times look like they are trying to be trendy, perhaps a comment on identity or perhaps an indication of the cult status the filmmaker thought this film would have. I doubt the film will garner huge cult status but it will certainly find fans in college students new to parody and at that age where anarchism is cool.
God Bless America is a polemic that is all too familiar but is still hugely fun and whilst not as intelligent as it could have been its sheer audacity is becoming.
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait
Stars: Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr and Mackenzie Brooke Smith
Runtime: 105 mins