God Bless America (2011): Black Comedy Gold-thwait

Every once in a while you find a film that makes you ask the question, “Where have you been all my life?”

And mean it.

Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (World’s Greatest Dad) God Bless America is a hard hitting black comedic look at all the things that make America unpleasant. It is the  movie I have been waiting for and didn’t know it.

The two main characters are Joel Murray‘s Frank and Tara Lynne Barr‘s Roxy. Frank is a divorced man living in an apartment with paper thin walls. He fantasizes about killing his obnoxious neighbours and their constantly screaming baby. At start of the film he is fired from his job for ‘sexually harassing’ the office receptionist (he didn’t) and discovers that he has an inoperable brain tumour which will eventually kill him. His ex-wife lives with their overly spoiled and unpleasant daughter and her police officer fiance.

Frank decides after yet another night of television channel hopping  that the tv reality programs and the country’s news people are made up of profiteering and mean people. Believing that his tumour will kill him anyway he decides to shoot himself. While he has the pistol barrel in his mouth he watches part of an episode of My Super Sweet Sixteenth Birthday.

The birthday girl is spoiled, selfish and self centered. She screams at both her parents that what they are doing for her birthday isn’t good enough. Frank takes the gun out of his mouth, leaves his apartment and steals his neighbor’s car.He drives to the birthday girl’s school to kill her instead of himself.

Joel Murray as Frank

Easily the funniest sequence in the film is where he meets Roxy and then goes down to kill birthday girl Chloe (Maddie Hasson). He handcuffs her to her birthday car’s steering wheel after she tells him, “You can have the car it’s the wrong one!” Frank replies, “I know.” He then places a rag in the gas tank opening and sets it on fire.

The placing of the rag, setting it alight and the slow-motion walk away from the car is accompanied by a very cool soundtrack. Unfortunately, before Frank gets too far away the  rag falls out of the gas tank and gets blown away from the car. Frank rushes to put the burning rag back. A group of Chloe’s ‘friends’ come up and Frank decides to shoot her instead.

Getting back into his neighbor’s car he flees the crime scene. Roxy is wildly impressed by his actions and tracks Frank down to ask if she can accompany him on his killing spree.

Tara Lynne Barr as Roxy

This unlikely pair spend the rest of the film bonding and killing annoying and mean spirited people.

Despite this being the blackest of comedies, the film walks a fine line between satire and drama. Joel Murray’s acting should have garnered him a bucket load of awards. His performance in the film showed every step his character took in his arc. By the time the film reaches it inevitable climax, Murray is so convincing it raised the hairs on my arms as I watched him.

Barr’s Roxy was a brilliant blend of teen angst, raging hormones and tunnel vision. She could, in my mind at least, give Ellen Page a run for her money as the new Hollywood ingenue.

The film itself was a perfect blend of ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary style filming with no musical ambience at all to all out musical set pieces which fit the scene so well that it was like listening to the sound equivalent of a tight fitting glove.

This independent film was a joy to watch from the very first frame of film to the last. It managed to make me a lifetime fan of Joel Murray and an ardent admirer of Tara Lynne Barr. Murray I would cheerfully cast in everything and Barr has fallen into the category of ‘keep your eyes on this one, she’s going places.’

God Bless America does not hit one sour note. It is paced well, edited perfectly and ends as it logically should. I could write reams more about this movie, but I would soon enter into spoiler territory. I’ll have to finish here and state quite simply that if you haven’t already seen this movie, you need to.

I will be purchasing this film to see if they have any ‘making of featurettes and/or director/cast interviews. This one is definitely a ‘keeper.’

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

23 thoughts on “God Bless America (2011): Black Comedy Gold-thwait”

  1. I watched this myself the other day and I entirely agree with your assessment. I enjoyed a great deal – it was a wonderfully pleasant surprise. The only criticism I had really was it felt a little preachy and self-righteous at times; but I could look past it; I’ve never held it against a filmmaker using it as a medium to express themselves, even if it is a little heavy handed sometimes.


  2. Man, now I’m gonna have to give this one a shot. I think it’s the first time since my following your Blog that you’ve actually mentioned buying the film primarily for the ‘special features’! 🙂 There’s no doubt about it. There’s plenty that’s nauseating about American culture… (Reality TV, I’m glowering at you.) Good stuff, Mike! 😀

    Oh! lol I got a chance to watch Insidious the other night. (Totally random. Sorry about that.) I actually really enjoyed it. But like you mentioned, the last 1/4 or so was really ‘meh’. Gotta tell you though, despite the fact I wasn’t entirely crazy about how they went about doing the ‘out-of-body spirit trip’ bit, the Darth Maul lookalike demon, or the Lipstick Demon as it’s called in the credits LOL, was pretty freakin creepy earlier in the film! That, and how messed up was the expression on the face of the girl who shot her family?? *shudder* 🙂


    1. Totally agree about the first 1/4 of the film. It had enough ‘freak-out’ moments to carry me over to the films so-so finale. I still remember my butt flying off the cinema seat three minutes into the film. They started so good…


      1. LOL Agreed. The creepiness and tension in the very beginning was awesome! 🙂 And the scene with the younger brother in his bedroom late at night, looking down the hall at his other brother, fearing he was going to get up and start walking around? CREEPY…


  3. One of those movies of which I’ve seen the trailer and I’m not planning on watching at all as it disgusted me. I get the point the movie is probably trying to make, but mindless killing people because you don’t agree with them just doesn’t sound entertaining to me.


    1. I’d never even heard of it before. We found whilst trawling the choices on offer on LOVEFILM. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it. It was sort of like the film Falling Down but with humour and pathos. The actors were what ultimately sold the film for me. Thanks for stopping by and sharing you point of view. Peace out!


      1. Interesting comparison, but I thought Falling Down did have humour and managed to make you care for Michael Douglas’ character. I wonder if that is the case here, because I didn’t get that feeling from the trailer.


      2. Trailers are notoriously misleading. If they aren’t showing you the only ‘good’ bits from the film, they are scrambling to put the film in a niche the audience can identify with.
        I did care for and identify with Michael Douglas’s character in the film and felt incredibly saddened at the ending.
        I can’t begin to imagine what a trailer for GBA would look like. The publicity machine for most of the films released that don’t fall into a particular category are often very poorly represented in the trailer stakes. I felt the film was not a cut and dried ‘kill em all’ type film at all. But, hell. What do I know? Cheers for sharing mate.


  4. You are actually the first person I’ve seen to say something good about this. As with most movies, this is in my queue and hasn’t yet been watched but I’m hoping to enjoy it as much as you did. I think the concept is terrific!


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