Following his divorce, Frank (Joel Murray) is forced to live in an apartment in Syracuse, New York, with paper-thin walls through which he can hear his neighbors’ baby crying and their inane conversations. He fantasizes about breaking into their apartment, shooting the obnoxious man who blocks his car in each morning and blowing away their screaming baby. The day he is fired from his job at the insurance company because a secretary he befriended took his friendly gesture the wrong way, Frank finds himself truly distraught. Frank is diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor and wants nothing more than to reconnect with his daughter.
God Bless America is a black comedy, a satire, that is both very funny and a sharp expose on what is wrong in United States culture. What is truly genius about the film is that it manages to accomplish all that it does without ever oversimplifying the problems and characters or becoming the very thing it rails against. For the first aspect, God Bless America is rich in way it looks at all aspects of American culture. Writer and director Bobcat Goldthwait calls out reality television, hate-mongering Conservative media, and – perhaps too briefly – religious hypocrisy whereby those supposedly believing in love and forgiveness rage with the most venom.
What also truly works is that Frank and Roxy use their sudden empowerment and guns with a sense of real restraint and some people they encounter it respond positively. Following the pair shooting four people in a movie theater, the one person they did not kill in the screening tells the news that the killers just wanted people to stop talking, texting and being rude while watching the film. So, while the media still has the problem of trying to attribute a ridiculous motive – violence in the movie on the Vietnam war and the effects of war that was playing where the murders occurred – some people (like the audience) clearly get what is going on in Frank’s head and can actually appreciate what he and Roxy are doing.
Frank is engaging, both from his daydreams of killing to his simple, generally cheerful demeanor. It is clear Frank wants to be happy, he just finds himself trapped in a world very much outside his control. He does something nice and thoughtful – sending a coworker flowers because she is complaining she is having a bad day – and he gets fired. He is diagnosed with a brain tumor by a doctor who does not actually care or empathize with him. Frank, ultimately, gets outraged because the youth of the nation come together to ridicule Steve Clark, an American Superstarz applicant whose audition suggests that he is mentally retarded and launches him into superstardom much like William Hung enjoyed.
And Frank is, believe it or not, deeply moral. He does not want to kill just anyone, he just wants people to be nicer to one another. He establishes firm boundaries with Roxy and refuses to objectify her and goes out of his way to avoid physical contact with her. But even when such things change and evolve over the course of God Bless America, Bobcat Goldthwaith is smart enough to keep Frank morally absolute in several important ways. So, after much of the movie where Frank is clearly uncomfortable by the proximity of Roxy, he finally allows her to touch him. With his migraine headaches getting worse and worse and medicine no longer having any effect, Frank lets Roxy rub the pressure point on his hand that, surprisingly enough, helps relieve the pain.
Early on in God Bless America, Frank complains about how children are fetishized and viewed in a sexual manner and how he is not a pedophile and how gross he finds that practice. It might seem like Frank is boxed in, that Bobcat Goldthwait has created an absolutist protagonist who has nowhere he can truly develop . . . unless he goes in the predictable direction which would ultimately make him into the thing he hates. But Goldthwait manages to find a new direction, one that allows Frank to develop without ever betraying his core beliefs, Roxy, or the audience.
And for as much credit as Goldthwait deserves for the writing and directing, it is Joel Murray who ultimately lands it. Murray does it with his final line to Roxy and it is what seals the movie as truly, undeniably, great. Joel Murray is such a fabulous actor in God Bless America that I had no idea he was the same performer who played the buffoon sidekick to Greg on Dharma And Greg. He is so divorced from the goofy, idiotic character that is arguably what he is best known for that he completely redefines himself in God Bless America.
And when he says the final line his character speaks to Roxy, he delivers it in such a way that through the sheer force of his eyes and the way he performs the simple line that he is saying it to her in a parental way, not a romantic one. Joel Murray takes a line that, on the page, could be interpreted many different ways and makes it conform to the character of Frank to deliver as one of the most loving, parental-type lines in all of cinema in a way that cannot be denied or misconstrued as creepy or romantic and it is Murray who absolutely lands the film.
To get Murray, Frank and God Bless America where they are going would not have been possible without Tara Lynne Barr. Barr defies the old adage about not working with children or animals in film as she appears on screen as both a disturbingly mature sixteen year-old and a frighteningly childish girl with enthusiasm and anger. Barr sells the role completely by eagerly delivering some of the movie’s most disturbing lines and also playing Roxy as genuinely outside the social norms. When her character lies, the audience believes her as much as Frank does.
She plays vulnerable, without ever being kittenish and in one of the film’s most subtle commentaries, Barr as Roxy responds to Frank’s setting boundaries, which is what most of the film’s antagonists lack, making them into horrible people. Source: wlswarts.blogspot.com.es
Joel Murray, who is so fine as Freddie Rumson on TV’s Mad Men, stars in the over-the-top independent dark comedy film God Bless America, written and directed for maximum scathing impact by bizarro comedian/filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait (World’s Greatest Dad).
"God Bless America"
Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: July 3, 2012
Bonus features on the discs include the following:
interviews with cast and crew