Film Review: God Bless America
(big thanks to google translator ↔ google Übersetzer, who has done more than 95 percent of translational work)
Read the Review in german: Flach, gemein, dumm und laut
The movie „God Bless America“ by Bobcat Goldthwait is a rather harmless satire, which satirizes with moral superiority driven attitude today’s consumer-driven America, acts for itself morally superior and, unfortunately, gets completely screwed up in it.
20 minutes of effective satire on today’s America
The film is told from the perspective of Frank. Frank is in his late 40s, divorced and unsuccessful as a father and as an employee. Soon he is fired and his daughter prefers playing video games rather than talking to her dad and just wants to visit him when he has a present for her.
Frank has constant headache and difficulty falling asleep. So he dawns before the American night program to himself. Candidates who are laughed at in casting shows. Moderators who are misogynist and right-wing extremists. Teenagers who behave in scripted reality formats impossible. „This is the world we live in,“ says one of the television characters. All video inserts represent the existing media landscape, but a little bit exaggerated. The consequence is fierce doubts about humanity. The first ten minutes reflect, as satire, what the world laughs at when thinking of a stupid, unenlightened America.
After nearly 25 minutes, Frank puts a pistol in his mouth. In a short film at this point a shot would be fired, the film would have made his satirical statement and the credits would begin.
Moral, too moral, immoral
Instead, Frank drinks a beer.
Even though Frank has nothing in his life, he does have a negative opinion about the media circus, which he calls a „new colloseum“ and in which he recognizes the last twitches of a sinking empire. The parallels to the Roman Empire can not be denied. Especially as „God Bless America“ blows hard into this horn.
In his rejection of the TV formats (which he, however, all looks at) Frank is very strict, sometimes rigid. „Why should one have a civilization when no one is interested in being civilized?“, he asks rhetorically. He decides to kill all those people who lack human decency, who no longer know shame, who take part in this media hustle and bustle. All those who are morally decadent. „I only want to kill people who deserve to die“, becomes his dogma
Even as a murderer, he sees himself morally superior.
Whoever speaks in the cinema is dead
The first victim is a 16-year-old highschool girl, who was portrayed as a „princess“ on a reality television show. Frank shoots the girl in her car, being watched by the 16-year-old Roxy, who says „Awesome“ instead of being afraid. Roxy joins Frank and when he wants to kill himself as a result of his crime, she asks him to „do it“ as well – she just wants to watch. Frank does not kill himself for the second time.
And Roxy suggests they could kill like avengers the people who deserve it. „That’s more fun than killing yourself, right?“, says Roxy. Next to Roxy, Frank suddenly seems really normal.
While Frank thinks he is on the morally right side of his thought-construct, the viewer should also identify with this position. The montages of the exaggerated television program, and especially the Voice Over, which shares Frank’s inner soul life, seduce the viewer to do so.
Stupidly, not all the dying figures killed by Frank and Roxy deserve to die. For example, loud-talking teenagers and a lying father – all clichés of bad cinema behavior – are shot dead. This works only within the filmic logic, as the shot figures just did not show decency and though deserved to be killed. In fact, it is perverse to kill people for little lies or teenagers for age-appropriate behavior.
Convincing actors – characters less convincing
The actors Joel Murray (Frank) and Tara Lynne Barr (Roxy) play their characters convincingly, the character of Roxy is designed as a caricature and is played accordingly overstated, which should be less challenging than the depiction of the socially left behind, cultural pessimist Frank. As convincing as the actors‘ portrayal of the characters is, the credibility of the characters is not convincing.
For a reasoning adolescent as Roxy who finds murders „Awesome“ will not be easily found in reality. In the course of the film, the figure of Frank is increasingly unbelievable. On the one hand, he avoids anything that might be considered sexual in his relationship with Roxy – he does not even want to tell her if he thinnks f her as beautiful. On the other hand, they are partners at eye level when it comes to killing other people. Not a word of admonition to a 16-year-old who still has her life ahead of her.
The big, predictable finale
Loaded with these moral ambiguities and a weak figure drawing, the second half of the film is almost confused. Frank and Roxy are considering fleeing to France because all the French would hate America and Frank learns he has no brain tumor. The film saves itself with difficulty to what has been created from the beginning as a grand finale. Frank equips himself with an AK 47 and goes to the song lines „I’m not like everybody else“ to the final event of „American Superstarz“.
The movie is predictable. Apart from killing, Frank desires not to be like everyone else – just like everyone else who rejects casting shows and Scripted Reality TV as undignified. All have in common that they want to be different, unique and they experience on a daily basis that they are invisible in the bigger picture. In that sense, Frank’s behavior is that of an unhappy person who no longer enjoys life. He does not complain because the conditions are so bad, but because in his socially isolated state, he has been scolded as the last possibility of the utterance. At this paradox „God Bless America“ can not pass.
In the end, Frank and Roxy kill the visitors of the final event random and aimlessly and die themselves in a hail of bullets. Although Frank still had a belt of dynamite hanging around, with which he wanted to blow up the studio. But probably no budget was planned for the explosion.
Overall, the film is viewable, if you can get involved in the fact that self-justice is a possible way in fiction. However, one should not confuse the sad main character Frank with a hero, and the fact that the film itself does this is problematic. The film is entertaining, above all because of the convincing acting and entertaining in the exaggerated criticism of America’s desire for pleasure. Unfortunately, the characters are not believable and morality goes nowhere. What is also missing is a positively formulated counter-proposal to the satirically voiced criticism.
Thus, „God Bless America“ remains a moralizing film that is only self-righteous.
Order the Film „God Bless America“ at Amazon.