God Bless America
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. Starring Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr, Mackenzie Brooke Smith 15 cert, QFT, Belfast, 105 min
FRANK MURDOCH (Joel Murray) is a sad-sack, divorced insurance salesman suffering from migraine and noisy neighbours when a double whammy hits. Not only has Frank lost his job due to a bogus sexual harassment claim, he’s also dying from an untreatable tumour.
Frank is already depressed by the endless spew of cruel reality shows, mindless celebrity factoids and right-wing scaremongering that flickers incessantly from his TV. All it takes it one episode of My Super Sweet Sixteen (ersatz) to push him over the edge.
Can Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a sassy teen nursing just as many grudges against society, save our suicidal hero from himself? And where will their crusade to rid the world of rudeness and idiocy end?
Writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait’s scathing third feature unfolds as a series of entertaining rants and rages. (Well, he did used to be a comedian.) Roxy hates jocks, Diablo Cody and high-fives. Frank can’t stand the idea that nobody talks about anything meaningful anymore and that men are supposed to find young girls attractive: “Maybe it’s time for adult males to aim higher than raping children,” he reasons. “Fuck R Kelly. Fuck Vladimir Nabokov. Fuck Mary Kay Letourneau. Fuck Woody Allen.” Both parties hate people who use mobile phones in cinemas, as unruly patrons find out to their cost.
That scene, perhaps, is badly timed but the film’s despair at contemporary culture could not be more prescient. Goldthwait’s dark vision of the US finds a complete set of correlatives in reality.
A fictionalized version of the Westboro Baptist Church sports “God Hates Fags and Jews” placards; a much-maligned tone- deaf contestant on American Idol (ersatz) is a ringer for William Hung; a neo-con Bill O’Reilly-alike denounces a peace protestor who lost her son in the Middle East.
For all the bitterness, there’s plenty to love and laugh at. Murray and Barr make for winning platonic chemistry even when Frank suspects himself of impure thoughts. Goldthwait holds his nerve as the film shifts from ennui to malevolent gleefulness.
The quasi-cartoonish violence has prompted some critics to pitch this as Natural Born Killers meets Juno. But our duo hates at least one of those movies and likely both. Who’s going to argue with the couple on a killing spree?