God Bless America
Contemporary television programs such as talent programs, news talk shows, and "reality" boarding shows have created a cesspool of debauchery that has catered to the lowest-common denominator in American culture. God Bless America is a satirical black comedy where the main characters kill each and every person they believe buy into the low-brow culture. The nationwide killing spree targeting talentless and fear-mongering hacks evokes the common spiritual phrase and the title of the film "God Bless America". With Frank and Roxy on the run, it's gonna need it.
Frank (Joel Murray) subjects himself to a night of watching television and is disgusted in what he sees. He is at odds with his neighbors who constantly fight and do not tend to the needs of their infant child. Frank's ex-wife has little respect for him and his daughter does not want to visit him because he does not impress her enough. At work, Frank has a lengthy conversation with a co-worker about the destruction of quality American media, of which, is interrupted by his boss, who terminates him for harassing another female employee Frank thought he was being respectful towards. To make matters worse, Frank finds out that he has an inoperable brain tumor. But Frank is finally fed up when he sees Chloe (Maddie Hasson) have a tantrum when her parents buy her the wrong car on television, and a killing spree ensues.
The film begins with similarities to the climax of Taxi Driver; an overhead shot dollies through walls as we are introduced to Frank, who is already annoyed by his inconsiderate neighbors and the obnoxious content available on television. The show that Frank watches are over-the-top parodies of what is on contemporary American television. Including a panel-based talent show, men doing stupid tricks and failing, women verbally attacking each other, and news pundits expressing their one-sided views on how their freedoms are threatened. If I did not know better, this would could be precursor to Idiocracy. Taxi Driver features a lonely Vietnam vet who believes that it is time to clean up the scum of New York City, the drug dealers, pimps, and reform the prostitutes. For Frank is a contemporary Travis Bickle, but he wants to clean up the immature and entitled society that has been brainwashed by the media.
When Frank reluctantly teams up with Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), the Bonnie and Clyde and Natural Born Killers relationships are evident, so much that Roxy even suggests the former with some clothing at a thrift store. However, unlike Bonnie and Clyde and with more conviction than Mickey and Mallory, Frank and Roxy continue their killing spree, offing only those who truly deserve it. They are not redistributing wealth or killing to influence mass media, they are instead attempting to expunge those who act on their entitlements and perform for a camera that may or may not be there. They want to get rid of the undesirables, those who are obnoxious and provide nothing to society.
Frank is certainly not proactive during the film's exposition, and although he cannot control his day-to-day life, he certainly can control the media he consumes. In fact, he is hypocritical for complaining about the media he subjects himself to. He watches the low-brow television shows and listens to very shock-jock radio that he complains about instead of looking for a challenging movie to watch or turning the radio dial to something that may interest him. However, the film conveys the message that the media is changing how society interacts with each other, creating entitlements, tantrums, and a lack of a unified consideration for all people. It is this that drives Frank to kill.
God Bless America can be seen as a nearly two hour Bobcat Goldthwait stand-up rant. It has the style and substance of his comedic style, which is primarily black satirical humor with a unique, obnoxious gruff that typically targeted the obnoxiousness of America (although many may consider his own voice to be obnoxious). His previous film, World's Greatest Dad tackles a few of the same subjects as God Bless America and maintains the critical view of the perverse ideal of celebritism.
Joel Murray, who has mostly been billed as a supporting actor, takes the reigns of the material with aplomb. He might be forever enshrined as Freddy Rumsen in Mad Men, but God Bless America may be his best work. He conveys the detest towards American media-driving consumerism and societal degradation. His partner in crime, Tara Lynne Barr, also is the perfect performer to portray the bubbly Roxy, who balances Frank's anxiousness with the teenage female sentimentality. Together, they are what Roxy calls "platonic spree killers," although there is a conversation and a subplot revolving around possible romantic link. Roxy has the same spunk from Juno, of which is not lost on Frank, who calls her such. Roxy goes on a romantic soliloquy about Alice Cooper and his legacy (which is mostly incorrect and misguided). Goldthwait's feature also includes a large cast of secondary characters who portray the obnoxiousness of the very characters that Frank and Roxy target, and such a feat to find a cast that can pull off such annoying roles is an accomplishment, far more difficult than preparing an army of zombies.
God Bless America displays links to many historically relevant films along with the aforementioned few, but pairs well with Falling Down and even the more recent Kevin Smith film Red State. Yet, Bonnie and Clyde is the most present, even with a comparable ending of violence. The film evokes the sentiments of a minority in America who are sick of the attempts of talentless hacks finding their way into mainstream media, and spending far more than fifteen minutes to embarrass themselves. Yet the message of eradicating the singular actors who make up the pool of obnoxiousness does not solve anything, Frank and Roxy should have attacked the media companies that produce the low-quality, low-budget programs that allow their targets to fester.