As someone who has spearheaded a podcast titled You Silly Humans (Episode 4 coming soon I swear) whose sole purpose is to bitch about all of the stupid people in the world, you can imagine how much a movie like God Bless America would appeal to me. The premise in a nutshell centers on a man who is sick of our deteriorating society and after being diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor, he decides to implement an extreme solution to the problem - shooting all the mean people in the face.
You can’t tell me that doesn’t intrigue you right?
The first 20 minutes or so set-up everything that our protagonist Frank (as well as writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait) feels is wrong with society and it’s encapsulated perfectly by a montage of him flipping through various fictional TV channels featuring shows that mirror existing ones. You have takes on American Idol, My Super Sweet 16, Fox News, TMZ and many more. What’s astounding is that Goldthwait doesn’t even feel the need to amp anything up for satirical purposes. He essentially recreates each of these shows without any exaggeration and it’s still ludicrous enough. Having them all back to back like this really highlights that well, I’m afraid we do kind of suck society. It’s all terrifically summarized in a speech Frank gives to a co-worker about how it’s pointless to have a civilization if nobody is concerned about acting civilized and how we always reward the loudest and dumbest people out there. It definitely doesn’t feel like a natural conversation one might have with a co-worker, but more like the film is speaking directly to the audience, pleading with them to open their god damn eyes. It may not feel natural, but it’s hard to get too upset when I agreed with every single word being said.
Frank is eventually joined by Roxy, a 16-year-old girl who shares his views and goes far beyond them, wanting to also kill people who give high-fives, or use the word ‘literally’ incorrectly. This character does walk the line and falls dangerously close into falling into the Juno category (something even the movie acknowledges) of speaking like no human being who actually exists. Her character may be a bit much but the two actors play well off each other and have a relaxed chemistry. Plus they don’t make the relationship sexual in any way, which would have made Frank easier to dislike, and murderer or not, you are definitely supposed to be rooting for him. This is in no small part thanks to the performance of Joel Murray, who brings sympathy to the character and makes him relatable, even while he is gunning down everyone around him.
It feels strange saying this about a movie focused on the murder of arguably “innocent” people, but one of my biggest issues with the movie is that it felt a little restrained, almost as though often playing it safe. Goldthwait certainly isn’t known for holding back, and the opening scene of this movie indicates a very dark journey ahead. But things never even come close to reaching that level again. For a dark comedy, it stays surprisingly light for the most part. That could simply be my jadedness talking however as I’m sure many people would not by any means view this as a light affair.
As for the comedy portion of the movie, there are definitely funny moments (an unfortunate amount of which are spoiled in the trailer, which I highly recommend avoiding) throughout but I would never say it’s hilarious. The movie often seems more concerned with getting people to open their eyes and see what we have become than it is with making you laugh. It can definitely get preachy, but it’s a message I’m glad someone else is trying to deliver.
As a purely cathartic viewing experience, I can easily recommend God Bless America. I agree whole heartedly with its central message (which can be boiled down to “we all kind of suck”) all the way and if it gets even one person to look inward and conclude, “holy shit what is wrong with me?” then excellent. As a dark comedy it’s a little less successful, never quite pushing the boundaries as far as it could and not featuring a prominent amount of hilarious moments. I enjoyed it though as a snapshot of a very dark period in society’s history. For that, it is definitely recommended.
Also if you’re one of those people who reacted to this movie with “Fuck you, if you don’t like America get the fuck out” you are actually one of the reasons this needs to exist.