Joel Murray is God Bless America’s anti-hero, Frank, a divorced father suffering from splitting headaches and an intolerable society. When a crying baby is treated as little more than a clay pigeon within the film’s opening moments, Goldthwait makes his merciless intentions clear. From spoiled children to rude cinema-goers to hyperbolic political pundits, all must be held accountable for society’s decay. Murray delivers Goldthwait’s rants in a matter of fact, deadpan fashion that conveys the seriousness of the situation along with the sheer absurdity of it all. As an "American Idol"-like television show humiliates a sad-sack contestant, Frank draws comparisons of such displays to the events once held in Rome’s Coliseum. After bemoaning the vacuous culture that leaves the majority with nothing important to say, yet starved for attention, Frank concludes "no one has any shame anymore". As God Bless America unfolds, it becomes as much a fantasy adventure film as The Avengers is, and for some, Frank and his young accomplice, Roxy (big-screen newcomer Tara Lynne Barr) will prove to be no less heroic than those costumed superheroes.
As Frank and 16-year old Roxy (don’t worry, he refuses "to objectify a child") travel across the US, exacting revenge on behalf of all that is decent and considerate, Goldthwait’s diatribes are plentiful. While Frank’s bullets cut down the likes of Westboro Baptist Church members, Roxy’s vitriol aimed Diablo Cody’s way is no less brutal. The script’s emphasis is on the messages being sent, rather than exactly how plausibly they’re delivered. Such a reckless killing spree would fail to get far in reality, but in Goldthwait’s world motivation is what matters most. He speaks to those who feel fed up and helpless against the tidal waves of indecency that are constantly crashing down around us. God Bless America takes a wide aim, but it’s hard to argue against opinions held of the targets, even if one feels the bloodshed to be taking matters too far.
Murray, in a rare leading role, and Barr have great chemistry together and work well as a tandem. His calm approach offsets her youthful fire as the duo happily act out in ways many viewers will have only dreamt of (film lovers may find it difficult not to cheer the cinema scene, for example). Despite the weightiness behind the characters’ motivations, the comedy is superb. Goldthwait employs an extreme example of a contestant from "American Superstarz" that is splendidly portrayed by Aris Alvarado. For those in agreement with the views put forth by God Bless America, it will be near-impossible to suppress smiling at the fact that someone else "gets it" and is willing to express the shared disgust so hilariously explicitly. Unfortunately, it will likely end up that the film preaches to the choir. That’s no bad thing, but it’s a shame that such a provocative film won’t grab the attention of a larger audience that needs to be confronted by its uncomfortable truths.
God Bless America may be unrealistic and too far off the radar to make a true impact, but that doesn’t stop it from being wildly entertaining and spot-on in its commentary. Murray’s Frank is more than worthy of being passed the torch D-Fens has held all these years, especially as now, more than ever, enough is enough. Bobcat understands and while that may not be enough, he has crafted a deliciously guilty pleasure, at the very least.
Tickets are available to the London premiere of God Bless America followed by a Q&A with Bobcat Goldthwait on 4 July at the Prince Charles Cinema