By: Addison Wylie
Comedian/Writer/Director Bobcat Goldthwait has this incredible ability to use film as a way to call out an elephant in the room. When he does, no one lifts a finger to interject. It’s because with World’s Greatest Dad and now with his latest angry opus God Bless America, he’s writing about topics and nitpicks that have crossed out minds but the subjects are either too awkward or too nitpicky that we end up deciding to move on to other thoughts.
It’s almost like Goldthwait is doing our dirty work and enjoying it. He knows how to use his platform to vent and call attention while writing and directing with a satirical hand.
However, even when the normal Joe Schmoe vents, there is always a chance of flying off the handle too much. They’ll complain until they’re red in the face, steam expels out of their ears, and usually someone would pipe up and tell them to “stay calm” or “chill out”. With God Bless America, it feels as if no one overseeing Goldthwait’s script or the production told him to take a breather.
Audiences see life through the eyes of Frank (played by Joel Murray), a quietly frustrated ticking time bomb who sees our society as materialized and dwelling deeper into shallowness. He often has twisted fantasies of snapping and making people learn their lessons with a handgun.
When Frank finds out he has a brain tumour and is further pushed beyond his limit by watching an empty show tailor-made for teeny boppers, he begins to develop a spree where he confronts these mean individuals and either uses words or bullets to get his point across.
Along the way, he meets a high school girl (played by Tara Lynne Barr) who has similar complaints about our current culture. She realizes they make a great team and they embark on the road trip together.
The film nails its targets (no pun intended). The spoofs of the television shows that Frank skims through have been directed and edited competently and eerily resemble shows that could be found on stations like FOX or MTV. These are the high points where audiences laugh but also realize that these jokes aren’t far from reality.
Although the script is hilarious at times with biting pitch black comedy, Goldthwait’s script has an ultimate problem.
It’s understandable that these rebellious lead characters do unpleasant things for the sake of dark comedy but we can never sign off on their revengeful plan. Yes, maybe people should try focusing on other things other than energy drinks and the latest goofball on a reality game show but killing them in cold blood isn’t the answer. They don’t learn their lesson because they’re dead. It’s a cheap way for our anti-heroes to become victorious. The murderous duo do set a victim free but it’s a teen who didn’t want anything to do with the bad behaviour in the first place.
When the victims are gunned down, booming orchestral music plays over the stylized scenes cueing us to cheer, laugh, or both. But, we can’t help but feel put off by the payoff. Both parties are in the wrong so we decide to root for neither side.
These killings also give us the impression that the writer/director may be more disgruntled than we think; as if we’re seeing too much of this side of the filmmaker. Imagine someone slowly pinning a voodoo doll in good fun and then gradually getting more violent with the stabbings.
When the two leads aren’t killing and are actually talking to each other about their lives and what annoys them, Murray and Barr build a rather nice relationship and it’s what keeps us tuned in to these flawed characters. Murray does a terrific job delivering these frustrated monologues and even though at first she seems like she’s playing up the whole “wild firecracker” a little too much, Barr finds her groove and is very charismatic.
The film has an array of characters but they all have the same voice. The majority of the cast deliver their lines with the same cadences and tone making audiences believe that the script is the only notable character in the movie.
Goldthwait’s observational humour strikes plenty of chords and it feels as if he’s made the movie he wanted to make and I commend him on that. Next time, his writing needs to suit his characters more and, every once in a while, he needs to step back and question if his film is getting too heated. Currently, all I’m hoping for is that he doesn’t sick Frank and Roxy on me for not loving God Bless America.