So you’re looking for a parking space in a busy lot, and you see a douchebag who has just parked his sports car in the very center of two spots. Do you A) roll down your window and politely ask him to move; B) roll down your window, flip him off and openly call him a douchebag; or C) leave your window up, flip him off where he can’t actually see your hand and curse just loud enough to get out some anger but not loud enough for him to hear you? If you’re anything like Frank in God Bless America, C is your likely choice, but you fantasize about a 4th D option: telling the douchebag off before shooting him in the face.
In God Bless America, director Bobcat Goldthwait’s follow up to his criminally underseen dark comedy World’s Greatest Dad, that D option suddenly becomes a valid option after its lead, the bitter middle aged Frank (Joel Murray) loses his job and is told he has inoperable brain cancer. On the verge of sinking into a deep depression while watching late-night television, Frank decides to use the opportunity to rid the world of a rich, snotty, self-entitled reality TV star who throws a fit on camera when her parents buy her the wrong car for her 16th birthday. But when High School outcast Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) sees Frank murder her hateful classmate, she begs him to let her join him, and the two go on a killing spree targeting “jerks,” developing into a kind of hybrid of Bonnie and Clyde meets Super.
A perversely wicked, yet often insightful dark comedy, God Bless America has cult status written all over it, even though the film is not for everyone and not exactly perfect. Of course, good cult films tend to be those that are rabidly loved by some and hated by others, and at the small screening I attended, my friend and I were laughing out loud at times, only to realize our neighbors seemed rather put off by the same moments. Since I’ve always defined a good dark comedy as one that makes you laugh out loud while your neighbor judges you, God Bless America delivers, with plenty of moments that will both incite laughter and offense. However, it also gets a bit preachy and long-winded at times. Filled with multiple diatribes from Frank and Roxy about everything that they hate, and containing at least one joke from Goldthwait’s recent stand-up special (or is it the other way around…), God Bless America eventually begins to feel a bit didactic, as if Goldthwait and his characters ran out of things to say three quarters of the way through. And at least one of the film’s targets, a long, mean-spirited attack on Juno and its director Diablo Cody, seems rather unfounded (something Cody even responded to) – but perhaps that’s just the moment someone else will laugh at while I take offense.
Despite its flaws, God Bless America has enough going for it to deserve the price of admission, especially for audience members who can applaud a shotgun blast aimed at a crying infant. For more thin-skinned audiences that don’t appreciate their satire armed with a healthy dose of violent black comedy, however, Goldthwait’s newest should probably be avoided.
- John Clark, on assignment for Tonight at the Movies