GOD BLESS AMERICA
If you’ve heard of Bobcat Goldthwait, then you probably don’t remember that much more than he was “that weird guy with that weird voice”. The voice has long since been dropped, but the act still remains mostly the same, with the rage now coming through in his words, if not his Pee-Wee Herman-like voice. Eventually, Goldthwait grew tired of being told that he was a has-been comic that nobody wants to see, so he turned to a job where he couldn’t be fired or told he was unwanted: filmmaking. He would make his own movies his own way, and hopefully support himself in the process. God Bless America is his fourth feature, but for the purposes of this article, we’re going to think of it as his second movie, after 2009’s World’s Greatest Dad, of this era in his career.
Woody Allen is probably the greatest and most famous example of writers and/or directors who essentially write and cast their leading roles as avatars of themselves. Although the tone and the voice of Allen may have very little in common with Goldthwait, Bobcat is certainly taking a page out of the Woodster’s (not an actual nickname of Allen’s) book, using his only two movies (purposes of this article) as human soapboxes spouting out his own diatribes, and looking at the world in the same way he does. Bobcat is still a pretty funny guy, and some of his ideas are hard to argue with, but unfortunately those two things don’t really make you a filmmaker.
God Bless America stars Joel Murray, fresh off his stint as that one guy who pissed his pants on Mad Men, as Frank, a guy who is having a fairly shitty couple of decades or so. Dead end job, ex-wife, twat of a daughter, fatal brain tumor – y’know, the usual. But Frank suffers from something much worse than that – something that no one else suffers from, except of course intellectuals, old people, teenagers, and everyone who has ever written anything on the internet. Frank hates everyone and everything, and can tell you, in perfect cursive, why each of those ones or things is terrible. From American Idol to shitty neighbors to the bureaucracy of the modern workplace, Frank will tell anyone who is listening everything that is wrong with everything. Most of the stuff he’s not wrong about, and everyone watching will probably agree with most of what he says. But therein lies the biggest problem of the movie: you won’t just agree with the shit he says, in fact you’ve probably said it before, meaning this movie is barely just preaching to the choir, and the choir has heard this sermon a billion times before. Well shit, if that’s the case, there’s only one thing we can do: let’s kill some people, mother fucker!
After Frank learns about his tumor, he goes home and watches a shitload of TV, including My Sweet 16 Party. There he learns about Chloe, a fifteen year old piece of shit rich girl. She sucks, and Frank hates her. He realizes that if he doesn’t do something soon, his piece of shit daughter is going to become this piece of shit rich girl. So he decides to kill Chloe, and then kill himself. He doesn’t think “I should do a better job raising my daughter” or “What will it do to my daughter when her father commits a murder/suicide?” but instead thinks “I’m gonna kill that bitch”. I know this is a satirical dark comedy and to think about shit like that is ultimately pointless, but what the fuck. This movie doesn’t have a ton else going on.
He’s able to kill Chloe, but before he can kill himself, he is stopped by a little girl named Roxy, who saw Frank kill Chloe and thinks he’s awesome. Roxy convinces Frank to go with her on a killing spree, trying to murder the world of jerks and mean people, and the two Mickey and Mallory themselves across the country. Roxy has too itchy of a trigger finger for Frank’s taste, even wanting to kill Green Day fans and people who give high fives, so Frank has to teach her that they are only going to kill the people that deserve it: the mean people.
For the most part, Goldthwait seems to subscribe to a very KevinSmithian view on directing, which means he thinks that if the script is solid enough, you just have to get it up on the screen. Directing is nothing more than delivering the script to the audience. He continues that Kevin Smith tradition by having a script that just isn’t strong enough to support not really having a director. The pacing is weird, and anything that comes remotely close to a set-piece is amateur hour. So we’re left to the speeches of Frank, and the conversations between Frank and Roxy. If the movie is going to shine, it has to be here, and it just falls flat. Woody Allen set up situations so his characters could essentially do his stand up. When Allen is at his best though, the dialogue is so funny, and so immersed in Woody’s World, that it almost feels more organic than other, more natural movies. Goldthwait is so concerned with the message that it’s impossible to feel organic, whether it’s funny or not, and it rarely is. It’s scene after scene of Frank and Roxy doing nothing more than listing types of people they don’t like. You know a movie like this can only end in one way, Bonnie and Clyde style, and you start itching towards that fast forward button, hoping that moment comes sooner than later.
I don’t know if Bobcat has a good movie in him. I had a lot of these complaints about his first (purposes article) movie, World’s Greatest Dad, which was more successful than this one, but still not very good. If he can take something from Kevin Smith that actually might benefit him, it’s to slow down and shrink his scale. Smith is at his best (Clerks, Chasing Amy) when he tackles smaller stories that are only periodically interrupted by diatribes straight out of his own mouth. But in between those speeches, Smith has time to focus on just a couple characters, write some great jokes, and not worry as much as he might need to about being the next great filmmaker.
JACK SHIT, FORCING YOU TO ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY