Release date: July 9th, 2012
Running time: 104 minutes
Writer and director: Bobcat Goldthwait
Cast: Joel Murray, Tara Lynne Barr
How far does a person have to be pushed before they finally snap?
It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times before. Looking at the unfolding chaos around me each time I step outside my door I feel that bubbling rage inside of me and I just want it all to go away – for people to lift their heads up from their mobile devices and watch where they’re going, for drivers and cyclists to have some consideration for those walking or waiting to cross the street and for shoppers to have the decency not to ram their shopping carts into you – worst of all, they apologise and then continue doing it.
The list goes on and for quite some years now I’ve refused to let that chaos into my home. I no longer watch television, listen to the radio or read the newspapers – in short, I’ve been unwilling to become a participant in what I see as the degradation of society, something which happens to every civilisation as it nears the end of its run.
God Bless America is a film which surprised me because it takes these exact feelings and amplifies them to such a level they can’t be ignored anymore.
It begins with Frank Murdoch (Joel Murray), a depressed, divorced and migraine-suffering insomniac insurance salesman in New York, who’s trying to have a peaceful night but he can’t. His next door neighbours have the television on at full volume while they’re yelling at each other, and their baby is screaming all night long. As he watches his own television he’s disgusted by the endless displays of vulgarity, excess and tastelessness he sees in commercials and on reality and talent shows.
Frank fantasies about blowing his neighbours away with a shotgun and eventually he falls asleep in front of the television. The next morning as he leaves his house for work, he sees they’ve blocked his car in – again.
At work his colleagues only regurgitate the things they’ve heard on television or seen on the internet and he’s dismayed that no one really talks to each other anymore. He’s further angered by the way his little daughter behaves; screaming, yelling and demanding things as if she’s entitled to be pampered like the spoilt brats the media and tabloids celebrate.
To top it all off, he gets fired from his job of 11 years for sending a female employee flowers after she claims it’s sexual harassment, and his uninterested doctor casually informs him he has a tumour and then takes a phone call from a car salesmen.
It all becomes too much for him and Frank sits in his car with a pistol in his mouth but instead of blowing his brains out, he gets another idea. He decides to take his anger out on society and he singles out reality television “star” Chloe (Maddie Hasson) as his victim, but his ill-thought-out plan goes awry and he ends up putting a bullet in her head. This is witnessed by teenager Roxy Harmon (Tara Lynne Barr) who’s desperate team up with him and start taking out the rest of the population who’ve become too stupid to live.
God Bless America mixes social commentary with a dash of action and gore as Frank and Roxy begin a killing spree that catches the media’s attention, as well as law enforcement’s. With the pair unleashing their rage on bible bashers, gay haters, a neo-conservative television commentator and noisy teenagers in a cinema, the film definitely has something to say about the current state of America, but this obsession with consumerism and celebrity isn’t isolated to just one country.
Signs of it crossing over to other counties have been visible for the past 10 years as we’ve seen people losing themselves in the idea that happiness is something that can be found outside of themselves; through material items and undermining others.
Although Goldthwait gets that rage across really well in the film and both Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr give incredible performances, God Bless America comes across a little bit like preaching to the choir without actually offering healthy alternatives to deal with our current situation. We know the situation is at a turning point, but what can we do about it? In this way I felt the film loses itself in exactly the same kind of behaviour it’s trying to make a comment on as Frank and Roxy become products of a society that gradually eats away at the soul – but perhaps that’s the point.
Maybe there’s no escape from the unfolding chaos and those who try to stand up against the injustice and madness it brings end up either becoming part of it or mowed down by it. Whatever the outcome, I’d still to think there’s a place we can go to before it comes to that – before more of us snap like Frank and Roxy.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .