God Bless America– Movie Review
Comedians sometimes talk about giving the audience “permission to laugh” at taboo topics. In Bobcat Goldwaith‘s disturbing and hilarious God Bless America, that permission comes in the form of Joel Murray‘s despondent sad-sack performance, and in the over-the-top style that thankfully distances the film from realism. Grounded in this, God Bless America will make you laugh even when you know you absolutely shouldn’t.
Murray is Frank, a schlub in Syracuse who has lost his wife, his daughter’s respect, his job, and soon, his life to a brain tumor. Deciding to off himself, Frank stops at the last second and decides to instead kill “people who deserve to die”: people who make their living spreading hatred and greed in the ego-obsessed society that has caused most of his ills. During his bloodbath spree across the country, he picks up an angsty teenage accomplice (Tara Lynne Barr), as they do in reality stars, blowhard pundits, and people who talk on their phones at the movies.
Murray’s despair and eventual peace go a long way in selling this cringe-worthy vigilanteism. His acts are never shown as macho, glorified, or heroic (a hilarious bit shows him flubbing an attempted assassination as he attempts to strut away in action-star style). This leaves us some room to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
But I was waiting for Frank’s vigilanteism to turn on itself, and for him to realize that he was inevitably punishing people who didn’t deserve it, and maybe even turning in to the thing he hates. Such a moment comes in pretty much every vigilante movie (i.e. Super). That doesn’t happen here. Not even when Frank learns the truth about his accomplice- he’s not angry that she’s just a quirky variation on the spoiled, entitled teen, but only that she lied to him. Instead, we get the weakest parts of the movie: long winded lectures on society.
Still, as a scathing critique of contemporary culture, and a lesson in how to draw humor and heart out of a dark subject, God Bless America succeeds by far.
Did you see God Bless America? What did you think?