God Bless America

God Bless America

***

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Frank (Joel Murray) is a worker drone in a soul-crushing job (which he's fired from - for doing a decent thing for an upset co-worker), separated from his soon-to-be-remarried ex-wife, and despised by his ignorant nine year old child. He's diagnosed with a brain tumour and sits in front of the idiot box, soaking up its toxic brew of hate, cruelty, victimisation and egregious scandal.

Eventually ready to suck on a bullet, he's hit with inspiration from a vile reality TV star, who throws a bizarrely hateful tantrum because her parents gave her a car but it isn't the one she asked for. As a last hurrah, Frank decides to off the spoiled little stain. He meets Roxy, a damaged young teenager - a character reminiscent of the namechecked Diablo Cody. Rather than off himself afterwards, Roxy convinces Frank to team up and clear the US of its societal vermin: obnoxious political commentators, rude theatre patrons, bigots, and all other people "who deserve to die". It's an Aaron Sorkin rogues gallery with a Howitzer.

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God Bless America is an uneven series of sketches. Some are superb and wildly unpredictable (Frank's surprise gun jam leads to a glorious ecstasy of fumbling and chasing around a living room); others miss their mark by miles. The film is often stronger in the quiet moments, skewering people who readily slap a "Remember 9-11-01" bumper sticker on their car but despise fellow drivers. Solidarity, my piehole!

Furthermore, there is not a single, living breathing character in the script. They are Goldthwaite's screenwriting and tirade delivering pawns. Admittedly, Joel Murray does well with the material; his sadsack demeanour and strong performance proves empathetic, even as he's happy about slaughtering dozens of people. That, and I found myself nodding along with many of his speeches.

The movie is quickly and cheaply made - so much so the soundtrack clearances probably cost more than the film itself - but it doesn't matter. Goldthwaite's direction is strong enough to paper over his script of often magnificent barbed gags, although there are ultimately few ideas beyond the first hour.

Reviewed on: 06 Jul 2012
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The anti-Ikiru. Terminal cancer patient tries to rid the world of as many morons as possible before he goes.
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EIFF 2012

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