Trailer really says it all!
Really enjoyed God Bless America for so many reasons, but mainly because I love a great anti-hero that can’t take the prison he finds himself in. Like a rat backed into a corner, Frank starts showing his teeth and the bodies start to pile up. Very reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite films, Falling Down, starring MIchael Douglas as an “average-joe” that snaps and spirals into a rampage. GBA feels very much like an ‘update’ to Falling Down in the “I hate your sense of self entitlement, your obsession with media, your bigotry, and your phoniness and I need you to die.” Where the films differ will have me giving away spoilers, but I will say this: Where Falling Down conveyed a person with lifelong mental illness, his actions garnered a “fuck yeah!” “kill the bastard” response from me. Douglas’s unraveling was an absolute cathartic experience, a social satire wrapped up in punk ethos, a love letter to every person ever presented with a hockey-puck looking burger where the advertised picture of said item was clearly something edible. GBA’s Frank, on the other hand, is simply a “nice” guy, who’s constant revelations about society and media exploitation slowly find him backed up into a corner. One cannot help but feel a sadness for the guy, almost like when you see tigers kick a dying or sick member out of their pack. Frank has been rejected & left out to die, yet with every bullet into the face of an asshole he lands, I was always saying, “no, no more, dude, you can still get out of this clean!” One wants Frank (& his teenage sidekick) to find (for lack of better words) some clarity or resolution, where with Douglas’s character, I knew the guy was doomed, but I had resolved that this guy would go down a martyr to the audience that believed America was a cesspool.
My main problem’s with God Bless America lie in its dialog heavy moments of preachiness. Through various scripted televised cutscenes of all the disgusting “entertainment” human beings are being programmed to devour, the audience (if we didn’t get this going in on a movie like this) has been already made clear of the world Frank is dealing with. Yet during the course of the movie, Frank never hesitates to repeat his motivations over and over again in conversations with his teen sidekick or anyone that will listen. This leads me to my final problem with GBA: the “teen sidekick.” One can’t help but feel the director did not have faith in his audience’s ability to empathize with his anti-hero, so in comes the cute little bloodthirsty teen to cement the fact that Frank isn’t such a bad guy, look he’s being a father figure to a girl that adores him. The teen sidekick felt tacked-on and worse than that, I just cannot believe her when she falls into her own dialog heavy moments. For example, a fifteen minute tangent about her “love” for Alice Cooper & how this 70’s rocker was the originator of all counter culture music today: The issue doesn’t lie in the girls opinion of whether or not Coopers contributions are valid, but in the semantics; One can’t help but imagine director Bobcat Goldthwait hiding in the shadows mouthing the words to her and thinking to himself, “Oh what a wonderful muse I have. People are sure going to love this smarty-pants I created!” Ever apparent are these moments of “Bob in the shadows,” then when his characters get into one of their rather convoluted diatribes. It’s unfortunate, because it really removes one from the intoxication of the film and jolts the audience into a classroom being preached to against their will.
Complaints aside (nitpicking, if you will), I very much enjoyed God Bless America and criticize it to the level I have only because I wanted to LOVE IT like I loved Falling Down. As a director, Goldthwait has really sparked my interest & I’m interested in knowing if the style of satire in GBA will continue. B+