TIFF Review: God Bless America

God Bless America (2011, directed by Bobcat Goldthwait)

Holy crap.

I mean this in the best possible way... how the fuck did this movie get made?

Frank is a decent but down-on-his-luck schmuck, suffering from chronic migraines and the miserable mean-spiritedness of modern America. Divorced, fired from his job for sexual harassment after a misguided but well-meaning gesture, and diagnosed with a brain tumor, Frank considers suicide until he sees a little too much of his own daughter in Chloe, the horrifically bratty star of a reality TV show. Figuring he's got nothing to lose, he tracks down and kills the brat as a way to strike one final blow against the douchification of the country. When he's spotted by Roxy, the Alice Cooper-worshipping schoolmate of Chloe's who hates even more people than he does, the two set off on a road trip killing spree to rid the US of A of every A-hole they can find.

While God Bless America could easily be just an unofficial prequel to Mike Judge's sadly bowdlerized Idiocracy, there's a little more going on here than just lampooning the most vacuous depths of the pop culture scene. The nods to Taxi Driver and Network in the film don't show up by accident. The film isn't just making fun of stupidity, it's judging it, and then acting as a cathartic jury and executioner to boot. The really amazing thing about God Bless America, for me, is that it never went quite where I expected it to. Frank and Roxy's relationship never strays (much) beyond platonic, and there's no "they get idolized in the media as famous killers and become the thing they hate" denouement. There's even very little indication that Frank and Roxy are conflicted by their actions, or worried that murder might not be the best answer for people who are "uncivilized". (In that, the film couldn't be more true-blue American if it tried.)

Instead the movie spends its time getting to know Frank and Roxy, and giving the actors a chance to shine. Joey Murray, best-known as Freddy on Mad Men, is phenomenal as the harried schlub at the end of his rope, while Tara Lynne Barr isn't quite as good but still turns in a solid performance as the sweetly manic Roxy. Given that's it's her debut (her credits to this point are little more than a smattering of guest spots on shows like the Suite Life of Zack and Cody) it's a pretty terrific piece of work from someone who's still a teenager herself. The world needs more ingenues capable of being at least slightly deranged, right?

As good as they are though, the acting is more than matched by the direction. Goldthwait continues to improve by leaps and bounds as a director, and while his form of satire is a lot more visceral than, say, Chris Guest's, he's almost at the point where he can get honestly mentioned in the same breath. Bobcat's put himself on my list of directors whose next efforts I will watch, no questions asked.

From the opening dream sequence, in which a noisy baby gets shotgunned like a blood-filled skeet, to the final massacre at a live American Ido... err, Superstars taping, God Bless America is pure delightful fun, if your idea of pure delightful fun is watching small, shabby, emotionally-stunted fucktards getting slaughtered in large numbers.

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