M-SPIFF 2012 Review: God Bless America

 


 

Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Writer: Bobcat Goldthwait
Producers: Jeff Culotta, Sarah de Sa Rego, Richard Kelly, Sean McKittrick
Starring: Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr
Country of Origin: USA
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 99 min.

 

While a couple on the run setting fires to America’s citizens and their warped sense of “good” isn’t really anything all that new, Bobcat Goldthwaite is able to take the idea and add some twists to the idea; while more importantly stirring in some pretty clever and funny dialogue to boot.

Frank is a slave to the everyday corporate grind (in a cube). His family life is gone, everyone surrounding him is an over-the-top caricature of a pop media drone and society as a whole seems hell bent on almost purposefully dumbing itself down into an “Idiocracy.” Rather than offing himself, Frank decides that maybe in the interest of preserving or “fixing” society as he knows it, it would be better to get his hands dirty and start taking care of business. Which would entail exterminating those responsible for such abhorrent behavior and their mentalities. Along the way he picks up an admiring high school girls who sees the world as just as “dead” as Frank does. Together they’re on the run, eliminating all those that “deserve to die.”

The bullets and violence that one expects from this sort of fare is fun for a while, but slowly loses its impact and sick fun fairly quickly. Especially since the movie can never elevate itself beyond the awesome depravity of the opening scene in Frank’s neighbor’s house, with whom he shares a wall. What works surprisingly well however and keeps the movie chugging along at a pretty even pace, are the two lead performances in Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr; the former ironically appearing only in Disney related projects previously. The two play their parts with gusto and their moments of “extreme dialogue” are moments not to be scoffed at. Skewering of everyone from the obvious (Fox News, American Idol, Westboro Church, etc.) to the more fun and obscure (Diablo Cody, cinema texters, or people who give high fives and misuse the word “literally” [YES!]).

So there’s certainly fun to be had and it never overstays its welcome – though it comes close near the end. Bobcat clearly has something to say and the movie doesn’t take long to say it. It must survive solely on its witty dialogue and outlandish violence. The violence is never all that outlandish or creative however. Nevertheless the film still works, resting on the squarely on the shoulders of the two leads.

Is it offensive as it could be or arguably should be? Not really. I felt it really pulled back on some of its punches and the people that need to see this movie probably won’t anyway. Is it hypocritical? Yeah, I could maybe see the spouting of that line for that critique but c’mon; it’s a comedy first and foremost and isn’t all that particularly deep so I don’t think it’s worth the argument. Is it anti-American? That too is a line that might be drawn. I do think it comes dangerously close at times in commenting negatively on the country itself rather than society and the people within the country. But again, it’s a line that isn’t really crossed and thereby once again does not come off as hypocritical – though easily could’ve been.

Audience laughed. Audience had a good time. Audience nodded/applauded approvingly (particularly with Frank and Roxy dispatching of some texting/talking teens in a movie theater). Some audience walked out. That about sums up the film in two lines.

As an aside, Goldthwaite himself was at my screening and he’s very charming and funny and an all-around nice guy. He hung out with fans afterwards and took pictures and signed stuff. SUPER cool guy!

IMDb

Andrew James
Podcaster. Tech junkie. Movie lover. Student. Also, beer.

10 Comments

  1. This was my take from TIFF:

    God Bless America is Bobcat Goldthwait’s new dark comedy starring Joel Murray, about a man driven over the edge by today’s culture. It’s release here, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, feels like no accident.

    God Bless America bursts out of the gate with a lot of great satire and a lot of guts, easy targets yes, but done in a cutting way that felt an amped up Mike Judge film, and it generates just as much genuine clapter as it does laughter. It does preach to a receptive crowd. Well, it swallowed everything it had to say with gusto to start and it gradually tapered off.

    It starts to fall apart once Tara Lynne Barr show’s up. She’s shrill, unconvincing, too rehearsed (like a Kevin Smith film, you hear the author’s words coming out of an actor’s mouth rather than a real character), and generally if you’ve seen James Gunn’s “Super” Ellen Page has done this role already and 1000x better. Her screen presence is just plain annoying and a humongous anchor on the film.

    Once the film gets moving into the shooting spree it really tanks. It wants to have it’s cake and eat it too, and the laughs die down because the film won’t properly commit to it’s opinion. It gives no clue if we are really supposed to keep cheering or if they have been corrupted and are hypocrites, etc.. It starts to get Boondock Saints kind-of-questionable and it certainly does not seem to have any grey area in there by design. The characters never change. They just start killing and the film assumes we will go along with it because we laughed at it when it was just their fantasies at the start.

    If there was a right wing version of this film people would be horrified, and it could be very easily done to a very accepting audience. Bobcat says the movie is not political but there is just enough in there to inspire such a reaction. It is definitely “You know what grinds my gears” level blunt and even beyond Trey Parker/Matt Stone preachy. One scene in the office is a more memorable sermon than the extended one in Red State, and more effective too, because it connects with the actual audience watching the film.

    The audience continued to cheer and cheer as Frank and Roxy verbally and then physically (and not so often creatively) attack the Tucker Max reading, 16-and-Pregnant watching ilk of the world, and eventually, anyone who get’s in their way, which is confusing. When the murders are in Frank’s fantasy, it’s amusing. When it gets acted out and the plot doesn’t progress or take on a properly sinister tone to match it, it just becomes contradictory and cuts against any message the film has, and scary for all the wrong reasons. It undermines it’s own satire.

    That said, there were still flashes of funniness through this trod, even though the filmmaking also starts to get questionable around here with scenes that go on way too long, some bad writing, and using music montages as a crutch (no wonder Richard Kelly produced this thing).

    The Q&A was of course, hilarious. Bobcat is quick and sharp.

    Overall GBA is VERY memorable for both good and bad reason and is sure to provoke extreme reactions. It resembles Super, Taxi Driver, S.F.W., and of course, Bonnie and Clyde.

    Reply
    • Goon’s review is the worst review i have seen of GBA anywhere. I have read a bunch and I can’t wait until it comes to Chicago so I can enjoy it in a full theater again. I was at TIFF and the crowd there was literally standing and cheering during some of the monolougues. This film is amazing and it seems that everyone else in that theater loved it. Maybe Goon should go out and make his own right wing version of the film instead of taking the time to write and repost his review that shows he hasn’t a clue. The point of the movie is why does everyone have to be such a jerk? Why can’t people just be nice? Goon, you have missed that point as well, in your life and your occupation.

      Reply
      • Your memory serves you incorrectly. The crowd started nuts and got gradually more and more silent. Nobody stood during the film and cheered. Not one. The crowd ate it up, but no standing at all.

        But thanks for the hate letter ending with “Why can’t people just be nice?” You could have you know, debated the content of the movie, but your bipolar disorder might actually be more entertaining than your argument.

        Reply
      • Dear “too-cowardly-to-write-your-name”,

        How about some actual points on why you like the film so much and counter some of Goon’s arguments that (while you may not agree) are pretty well articulated and specific.

        Go back to “ain’t it cool news” or “slashfilm” and have a nice existence.

        Reply
  2. I sort of agree with some of your points here Goon; especially the fact that it completely loses steam as the picture wears on.

    I, on the other, hand really liked the girl and thought she had presence. Yes some of the dialogue feels pretty wrote, but like you said, so do Kevin Smith films and I love the dialogue he dishes out.

    I don’t think I’d sit through the entirety of this one again, but it has some great bits and overall had fun with it.

    Reply
    • Is there an anti Diablo Cody rant still in the movie? The cut we saw at TIFF was only a few days fresh.

      After the movie in the Q&A someone called him out for the Cody trash talk if he had seen Juno and why he bothered singling her out. Bobcat then said he had never seen Juno.

      hrrrm.

      Reply
      • I wonder if the cut I saw is even longer of a rant. In the Q&A Bobcat had said that originally it was just one throw away line about Cody. But after someone wanted him to take it out, he wrote/shot an even longer scene skewering her. Which is pretty funny… and awesome.

        Reply
        • feh.

          After being a Juno disliker back in the day, I’ve come around a bit. Especially since I’ve heard her WTF with Marc Maron interview, I’d say I’m even a fan. I hope if Bobcat is continuing the rampage he at least by now at least saw Juno or Young Adult so he can actually… know what he’s talking about.

          Reply
  3. I enjoy Bobcat, always have, but here’s what Cody had to say about the whole deal, and I am behind her 100%

    “In the meantime, I’ve been sad because I heard Bobcat Goldthwait (who is actually a really talented writer/director) brought a movie to Toronto that rips on everything stupid about American pop culture; namely, reality TV, Idol, Kardashians and…me? I don’t even consider myself a part of “pop culture” these days. I’m a screenwriter with a hit-or-miss career. I don’t really go out to events. I don’t have a million Twitter followers or a massive fandom (In fact, I seem to have a much larger and more vocal “un-fandom,” if you know what I’m saying.) I would think that to pollute pop culture to such a degree that it warrants being eviscerated in a movie, one would need to be, you know, powerful. Visible. Ubiquitous. I’m none of those things and I haven’t been in a while. Maybe this movie has been on the shelf? Hope so, but I doubt it.

    I ordinarily shake these things off, but it sucks extra hard when the criticism comes from someone you admire. Shakes the Clown is an excellent movie. Plus, I always assumed Goldthwait and I were kindred spirits— we both have silly aggro fake names, and we’ve both spent our careers (his long, mine short) trying to transcend the gimmicks we’re known for. Dear Bobcat: Juno is my “growly voice.” Let me evolve, as you have evolved.”

    Reply

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