SIFF 2012: God Bless America ***

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 26, 2012)

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I predict that standup comic turned writer-director “Bobcat” Goldthwait will one day be mentioned in the same breath as Godard and Bunuel as one of cinema’s great agent provocateurs. OK, maybe not. But it does take a filmmaker with a unique talent for pushing buttons to kick off a “comedy” by skeet-shooting a baby.

Now, before I get walkouts, let me say that in context of what follows in God Bless America, it fits. In this surprisingly sharp satire, Goldthwait takes (literal) aim at The United States of Stupid. His disenfranchised antihero Frank (Joel Murray) is like Ignatius J. Reilly, railing against all who offend his sense of taste and decency (armed with an AK-47).

Already stewing over his ex-wife’s impending marriage, his little daughter’s detachment, his inconsiderate neighbors and his observation that most of his co-workers are obsessed with reality TV, Frank is pushed over the edge when he loses his job and is diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Frank’s first target is an obnoxious reality TV star, but his hit list expands to include wing nut pundits, Teabaggers, Westboro Baptist Church-types…and the worst of the worst: people who yak on their cell phones in movie theaters and smug Yuppies who deliberately take up two parking spaces. Along the way, he is aided and abetted by a 16-year old girl (Tara Lynne Barr, in a scene-stealing performance) who “loves” what he’s doing.

One more prediction: Decades from now, the American zeitgeist of the early 21st century will be neatly encapsulated by this money quote: “I don’t want my Daddy…I want an iPhone!!!”

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