Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Review: God Bless America

Year: 2011 (U.K Release 2012)
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Screenplay: Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr and Mackenzie Brooke Smith.

Synopsis is here

Former stand up comedian; Bobcat Goldthwait's satire is a simple one. The targets are as plain as the nose on it's face. This is not a problem for me. I enjoyed many of the barbs the film hurls, as most of the time the film ranges from moderately to highly funny. Goldthwait's jabs at loosely based parodies of neo-con political commentators, American Idol and trashy reality shows are warmly welcomed. In fact the main conceit, in which a man goes postal due to the ugly cynicism being fed to him (and everyone else) by media outlets and the like, is the sort of wish-fulfilment fantasy that must be gaining more patrons by the day. Goldthwait tries to up the stakes by giving us a central relationship, that is given the same type of troublesome affection, usually reserved of the likes of Todd Solondz. Once again no real issue here.

However, much like Goldthwait's previous feature World's Greatest Dad (2009), God Bless America is quite the one note affair, and unlike it's predecessor, is a little too scatter shot to remain truly remarkable. The anger seems to be there. Goldthwait's film gives us a very strong motif that follows us throughout the film.Diana Ross' Theme from Mahogany is heard throughout, being poorly sung by an X-factor wannabe laying out the intent as clear as day. Is this quagmire of lowest common denominator pap, where we wish to be lead? Living as products of fear with only the antics of fame hungry nitwits to make us feel better about ourselves?

Goldthwait sets the path out quickly and assuredly, the parodies and idleness of the masses are right on the money at the start. The ironic moment in which our protagonist; Frank (a neatly sad sacked Joel Murray), is fired for an extremely decent gesture, amidst a crowd of wage salves guffawing over the last nights sneering T.V show hits home with a wit that's sand paper dry. The absurdity feels far too plausible.

For a while it doesn't let up. A PG rated Sweet sixteen style show, in which, the birthday girl is screeching swear words at her parents for getting the wrong car, is layered on by Frank's own daughter mimicking the same bratty attitude over the phone. When Goldthwait gets it right, he gets it right.

That is until the movie hits the road, and the cold blooded killing starts. Where the energy should rise, it falls. Slowing  for characters spout dialogue that feels more like a stand up comedian's rantings than something that comes out naturally. It's not that I don't agree some some of the points, it's more that it sits awkwardly within the film. Goldthwait moves more towards the central relationship between the middle aged Frank and the teenage Roxy. The sweetness between the wannabe Bonnie and Clyde doubles, but the focus lessens the easy targets become quite thinly spread and the film slowly loses it's bite. 

Any real complexity stems from the character of Roxy (an energetic Tara Lynne Barr) whose reasons for joining Frank give the film a shot in the arm late on, when we find out that Goldthwait has nowhere else to direct the rage. Television is one of the villains. Not just in the film but outside too as the antics of Charlie Brooker's Dead Set (2008) and Black Mirror (2012), are far more focused affairs that are just as black but far more rewarding. Goldthwait should however get full marks for his efforts. Barr donning an imagery that evokes Brenda Ann Spencer, and the films all out final moments provide more interesting hints of Goldthwaits outlook and anger. Such venom however, still needs discipline to be truly affective.