There is no easy way to go about discussing God Bless America in light of recent tragedies in America. The film was already out of movie theaters by the time the Aurora Theater shooting occurred and forever changed the context of the film. The film began streaming shortly before the Newtown shooting, as well, again shifting the context of the film. It's horrifying that what was intended as an absurd piece of satire went with the most ridiculous things possible and wound up hitting on the arrival of two terrible real life events. God Bless America is a brutally dark satire about the effect reality TV has had on the concept of fame and appropriate behavior. It is also a cry of protest against gun violence. It is also an extremely violent film with, as you can probably guess by the introduction, a shooting at a school and a shooting in a movie theater. They're broad moments played for laugh and shock value in equal measure but now they take on a far more disturbing tone that redefines what God Bless America stands for.
A man is fired from his job and diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in the same day. By that evening, he's loaded up his gun, shot his neighbors, and plans to take down a spoiled teenager in town who was celebrated for terrible behavior on TV. He quickly gets his first target and is befriended by a high school girl with the same world view as him. She convinces him to go on a killing spree targeting anyone who uses sensationalism in the media to gain viewers and dumb down the country.
Writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait hits a much-discussed subject from such a dark angle you have to pay attention. We're meant to cheer on Frank and Roxy as they go on their murderous quest, but there is nothing noble in what they are doing. Their stand against sensationalism and cruelty in media is good but their method of dealing with it is disgusting and disturbing.
That is the crux of Goldthwait's approach. The only thing more sensational and destructive to mankind than the cruelty trend of reality TV and editorial news broadcasts is actual violence against others. Our support of the two leads is designed to make us think about all of these issues. No one comes out of this clean and even the things you think you know are destroyed by the end.
The only thing that makes this gallows comedy bearable is the very sweet relationship between Frank and Roxy. Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr have phenomenal chemistry onscreen and bring out this admirable camaraderie even when they drive a car through a controversial protest or open up gunfire on rude theater patrons. We're meant to be disgusted by what they're doing but drawn to how strong their bond is over trying to restore the standards of American media and entertainment.
I cannot stress enough how violent God Bless America is. It cannot be divorced from its news context and even if you could push that aside, the gun violence is especially disturbing. It looks far more realistic than you would expect in something heavily promoted as an over the top farce. If this film ever gets an audience, it will be years in the future, when people have had time to come to terms with two national tragedies and can handle a forced dose of self-reflection.
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