God Bless America (2011)
When Donald Trump beat the odds to score his surprise victory, many people took to the internet to express their shock and horror at the state of the world for allowing such a man to become the leader of the world’s most powerful nation.
America (and by extension the UK) with its steady diet of reality TV shows that celebrate the most self-obsessed, greedy and unpleasant of reality stars was really setting itself up for someone like Trump to take over the highest office in the land and I feel, looking at things from this perspective, that Trump right man for the job.
And so wrap up this feature to the end of his first full year as President of the United States, I’m taking a look at a film that I think perfectly captures the deeply polarized, angry and generally unpleasant mood of a world that allowed someone like Trump to seize the national conscious and ride it all the way to the White House. That film is Bobcat Goldthwait’s satirical dark comedy appropriately titled God Bless America.
After losing his job and the chance to see his daughter on her birthday, middle-aged Frank Murdoch is diagnosed with a brain tumour that will shortly kill him. With nothing to lose and disgusted by America’s obsession with talent shows, reality TV, Talk Radio, political pundits and a constant need to “be mean”, Frank embarks upon a killing spree with everything that he despises about modern America as his targets.
In the leading role as Frank, Joel Murray gives a fantastic performance as a man who has simply had enough of all the bullshit, with his beautifully performed rants about just how screwed the country has become as a result of its obsession with reality TV and “pop politics” succeeding in making the character a relatable and often funny everyman. Even when he essentially becomes a mass murderer, Murray’s soulful and passionate performance ensure that you still root for Frank in a rather twisted fashion that see’s you hoping that he succeeds in ridding the country of it’s worst elements.
Tara Lynne Barr also gives a stellar turn as Roxy, Frank’s new partner in crime, with Barr’s energetic and borderline psychopathic performance providing a perfect counterbalance to Murray’s more restrained and low-key approach. Again, while the character is a psychopathic murderer, Barr with her crazed eyes and enthusiastic manic glee in the role manages to make her somewhat likeable and fun to spend time with, even when it turns out that she is the very thing that Frank hates the most; a liar.
God Bless America is a film that is likely going to polarize viewers, with some going to love it and other going to hate it, mainly based on both their tastes of humour and, to a certain extent, their political persuasion.
The satire can often a tad unoriginal (do we need another film telling us reality TV is awful?) and the dark and often violent humour of the film is likely going to be just a bit much for the more sensitive of viewers. On the other hand, though, I f**king love God Bless America.
The satire is, while of the very obvious kind, is still incredibly sharp, funny and scathing in its indictment of America’s decline from a great world power into a narcissistic, celebrity-obsessed, pundit-driven, reality TV addicted cesspool that would drive any intelligent person to despair.
The various parodies of TV shows and Fox News style political pundits that populate the film all feel accurate and funny in their mockery, with a mock Sweet 16 type show being a damn near perfect recreation of the kind of awful celebration of narcissism and spoiled teen greed that those shows depicted.
The various rants that Frank delivers throughout the film perfectly this anger and frustration at this decline, with his final furious monologue about how America has become “a cruel and vicious place” that has “lost its kindness and its soul” being both poignant and topical.
There is one line in particular that I feel is especially timely when discussing modern America (and by extension the world at large), with the country instead of striving to do good in the world and encourage others to do the same, the country has instead devolved into rewarding “the shallowest, the dumbest, the meanest and the loudest….where the worst qualities in people are looked up to and celebrated”.
This final monologue, (and the whole film) I feel is now even more relevant with Trump in the White House, with him having essentially turned the Presidency into the world’s biggest reality TV show and like or loathe him, we’re all tuning in to watch it.
God Bless America is a film that I feel needs to be seen by more people. While it’s satire might not be to everyone’s liking and the humour might be just a tad too dark for some viewers, it’s excellent central performances, funny and sharp script and fast pace make it a film that is not only darkly funny but also timely in the current polarized world of President Trump.
While I admit that I’m no fan of his, I do honestly hope that Mr Trump enjoys a successful and full presidency despite the various problems and resignations that his first year has thrown at him. Mainly because I want to write more features about him, and I really can’t do that if he leaves now can I?
What films are you thinking of watching to mark one full year of President Trump dear readers?
Are you a Trump detractor who might recommend a dark apocalyptic misery fest or are you a Trump supporter who might recommend a more hopeful film that captures a renewed confidence in America?
Regardless of your political persuasion, I’d love to hear your suggestions.