If there’s anything in this world that I’ve grown to hate over the past few years, it’s the downward spiral that the American popular culture scene has taken. And for awhile, I had been waiting for a bold filmmaker, especially one that has previous experience as a satirist to end up making a movie on the subject. Thankfully, one has been able to take on the controversial challenge of doing so, and that film “God Bless America” turns out as one of the most defining satires of our time.
Frank (Joel Murray) is a middle-aged man whose life is very down-on-his-luck. He has a job that’s been run over by ignorant and annoying co-workers, and he’s also divorced from his wife and profoundly ignorant daughter. However, Frank has grown to hate the realms of human society because of them being influenced by the insipid and dumb-founded pop culture of the current generation. He’s soon diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he makes it his mission to rid the world of people who’ve had their personalities influenced by the negative aspects of pop culture. Along the way, he’s accompanied by a young high school student (Tara Lynne Barr) who equally shares his distaste for the downfall in society.
Now when reading a premise like that, some may view it as something that’s too extreme to even be put up on screen, but this film isn’t an instruction manual on why you should hate America. Instead, it’s a truthful satire that displays the issues that exist within society, but still isn’t afraid to have a lot of darkly comedic, energetic fun with it. Furthermore, right-wing political groups and reality tv show personalities are bound to take offense to several of the film’s exploration on the pop culture downfall, those especially being Glenn Beck, Westboro Baptist Church, Real Housewives of New Jersey, American Idol, and a whole lot more.
The two leads Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr both deliver terrific performances as Frank and Roxy. Murray’s approach to the character of Frank is extremely subtle, and the way he delivers several of his rants on society flowed in such a supremely natural manner. Standing alongside Murray, Tara Lynne Barr enhances a huge amount of frenetic energy to the character of Roxy, who ends up turning into a psychotic sidekick to Frank that spews out one-liners left and right, in addition to her venting out her frustration towards certain pop culture obsessions throughout the film.
The real star of this film though, is writer and director Bobcat Goldthwait. Goldthwait is one of those few filmmakers working today that tackles on subjects in dark comedies that just about nobody else would’ve ever had the guts to follow through on. Additionally, he utilizes both satire and social commentary for whichever issues he constructs into his films. Watch his previous effort “World’s Greatest Dad,” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Essentially, this movie is Goldthwait’s manifesto centered upon the downfall of American popular culture, but also the effect it has had upon how humans have treated each other because of it. We’re perfectly capable of changing the way that we think or feel for others, but the ways in which the influence that pop culture has placed upon certain people, those aspects have slowly been diminishing over time.
Overall, “God Bless America” is an outlandish and insanely unapologetic film that serves as the best revenge fantasy for those that detest the pop culture obsessions of this generation. Yes it has no rules and gets very over-the-top at times, but it’s still one of the smartest darkly comedic satires I’ve seen in a long time.
Final Grade: A-
Review of "God Bless America" on Youtube