In the same riotous vein as Hobo with a Shotgun, Bobcat Goldthwait’s recent film God Bless America is filled with rage, vengeance, and senseless violence. Last year, a good friend suggested I watch Idiocracy, because he claimed the slapstick comedy would appeal to my own sense of injustice over “the state of things in America.” Idiocracy had a good message, but its execution was vapid. Well, where Idiocracy failed, God Bless America succeeded with flying colors—or with flying spurts of blood at least.
Frank (played by Joel Murray; yes, one of Bill Murray’s brothers) has had enough of the downward spiral of American culture. Divorced, recently fired, and terminally ill, Frank has nothing left to live for. Instead of taking his own life, however, he buys a gun and decides to take out his frustration on the cruelest, stupidest, most intolerant people he can imagine, starting with some particularly odious reality TV stars. Frank finds an unusual accomplice in a high school student named Roxy, who shares his sense of rage. Together they embark on a nationwide assault on our country’s most irritating celebrities.
Goldthwait directed and wrote this clever rant. He is quoted as saying, “Some of it is how I really feel and see the world. Some of it is how my wife and daughter see the world.” After watching God Bless America, I can say with confidence that I’d pay money for a seat at their dinner table.
This film is not for the faint of heart. At one point, Frank imagines shooting a crying baby (as horrific as it sounds, this scene works fabulously). Together, using guns, knives, and the occasional piano wire, Frank and Roxy kill tons of people, from teens who refuse to turn off their cell phones in a movie theater to religious extremists touting signs that say “God Hates Fags.” Blood is everywhere. I think Goldthwait did this on purpose, to make the images—and the incumbent message—stick in the subconscious of his viewers, because the viewers are the only ones that matter. The characters in the film itself are beyond hope, considering, well, most of them end up dead.
Want a better idea of the message? “My name is Frank. That’s not important. The important question is: who are you? America has become a cruel and vicious place. We reward the shallowest, the dumbest, the meanest and the loudest. We no longer have any common sense of decency. No sense of shame. There is no right and wrong. The worst qualities in people are looked up to and celebrated. Lying and spreading fear is fine as long as you make money doing it. We’ve become a nation of slogan-saying, bile-spewing hatemongers. We’ve lost our kindness. We’ve lost our soul.”
Ouch. And the movie does hit where it hurts the most. God Bless America is hard to watch, not for its violence but for its honest portrayal of modern America through our media, our teens, and our general lack of intelligence. I would never let my mother watch this movie, but I bet my father would love it. It’s certainly not an anti-patriotic film. If anything, the hero, Frank, yearns for the patriotism we now lack. He has a vision of himself as JFK, waving to an adoring crowd, surrounded by American flags. He wants innocence back. He wants people to be nice. When he finally realizes Americans have stopped caring about the things that really matter—respect, patriotism, and goodness—that’s when he goes bonkers and starts shooting.
I’d say Goldthwait’s only fault was in the gratuitous cussing. It’s perfect when the annoying people who deserve to die cuss a lot, because it achieves Goldthwait’s point. When his heroine does it—all the time—it gets kind of annoying, because this overabundance of cussing is part of our country’s problem. I wish he would have left out Roxy’s torrent of bad words, but hey, no film can be absolutely perfect … although God Bless America is pretty darn close.