11 August 2012

God Bless America (movie review)

I first heard about this movie through a "linked" trailer over on YouTube while I was searching for something completely different. I thought the trailer looked not great but promising and at least got me interested in checking out the full movie. I also really like the main actor Joel Murray as I think his face has that perfect blend of suicidal desperation and honest kindness, something the character he plays in this movie really needed.

The movie is about the main character Frank, middle aged guy who has been divorced and lost his daughter to his wife and her new husband (who actually seems like a nice guy), Frank lives in a shitty apartment with paper thin walls and has trashy neighbors screaming and making noises 24/7. He is also early in the movie informed that he may have a tumor in his brain and does not have much time left to live.

Now here's the deal, this movie aspires to be a controversial "dark comedy" and criticism about modern society, the drivel we watch on TV and the values of human life and what's important that have degenerated. In many ways I think this movie wanted to be something like "Falling Down" with Michael Douglas, middle aged guy going apeshit after a bad day sends him over the edge.

The initial problem with God Bless America is that before we have even had any glint of character development, motivation or backstory to Frank - he is fantasizing about going into the neighbor apartment and take 12 gauge shotgun revenge on the family (including their baby) in a graphic way. At this point in the movie we don't know if Frank is a retard, a good guy or anything about him - so we can only be repulsed by his train of thought. It feels like a sloppy way of introducing the protagonist.

The movie however does a good job at explaining Frank's hopeless situation which drives him into suicidal thoughts, he end up watching the TV swapping between a take on "American Idol" and "My Sweet 16" parodies which really show the bottom of the barrel in terms of humanity and television broadcasting material. Just as he is about to blow his brains out the brat in the "My Sweet 16" starts crying and cursing her father for giving her a sports car in the wrong color as a birthday gift. Frank here realizes that instead of killing himself, he is going to track down every single one of those fuckers shown on TV and kill them instead - saving America from this wave of trash culture.

What follows is something resembling a road trip where Frank goes to kill "people that deserve it" (and trust me they do). His first assassination attempt is really hilarious, you only see half of it in the trailer- the full scene is comedy gold. I wish the movie had more scenes like that. And it could have been a rather funny dark comedy - BUT - the movie throws in a teenage girl sidekick that pretty much ruins everything.

We can relate and sympathize with Frank, we know his motivation, he does a good job explaining who needs to die and why, deep down he wants to help out a guy who was ridiculed on "American Idol". The teenage girl however is such a damn airhead, keeps ranting about killing people for all kinds of random reasons that make no sense - even Frank thinks her ideas are stupid. She really doesn't add anything good to the movie or the story. I have not seen a character so pointless and annoying since Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars the Phantom Menace

This ruins the movie quite a lot, and detracts from the "seriousness" and in the end making it a poor experience to sit through. There are also other problems with the movie, it takes the predictable road of bashing the classical bad guys, religious nutcases, Republicans, Tea Party and other stuff that are easy targets and that have ALWAYS been ridiculed in media. I think it would have been interesting if the movie dared to take a hard look at the liberal bullshit that actually exists parallel to the conservative crap. If you are going to show the extremes of one side - for the sake of balance - show the extreme of the opposing side as well. It makes for a more honest and interesting movie. Instead we get this unintelligent indoctrinated Michael Moore take on reality that only stupid people can buy without reflecting upon it.

5.5/10, it could have been quite good, but the teenage sidekick and in the end lack of original ideas kill this movie.


  1. Falling down did not really click with me until I became middle aged and grasped the point.

  2. First movie in a very long time I did not make it through. Just was missing something for me, or a lot of something....

  3. So, just to be clear, you DID like Falling Down, right?

  4. Falling Down is a superb movie and handles the social commentary thing a LOT better.


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