Of all the loud genre movies I rented this week, this one was the champion. A lot like Super (or a comedy Falling Down), a hilarious piece of wish-fulfillment that turns ever-darker. Joel “Bill’s brother” Murray hates his life (in which everyone calls him “bro”) but mostly hates self-centered airheads on television, so after he’s fired then misdiagnosed with a Joe vs. the Volcano-esque brain-plot-device, he chooses to go on a rampage instead of killing himself, killing a spoiled sweet-16 reality star, then her parents. It gets uncomfortably more similar to Super when Frank unwillingly attracts a teen-girl sidekick (Roxy) whom he keeps calling “Juno”.
Watching this a week after some nut shot up a Batman screening, I was surprised at the scene where Frank and Roxy shoot up an underattended movie matinee because a row of teens wouldn’t shut up and put down their phones (scored to a cover of Bjork’s It’s Oh So Quiet). They kill a republican TV talking-head, a guy who takes up two parking spots and a funeral-protesting cult leader. The media keeps misinterpreting their motives, and the killers grow more comfortable with their motels-and-murders lifestyle, gearing up towards a lovingly-shot slow-motion suicidal massacre on a live American Idol-like show.
Excellent movie, more complicated than it seems.
The AV Club gets it:
It isn’t a funhouse mirror; it’s just a mirror. The debasement on its airwaves isn’t some Ow My Balls-style future Idiocracy, but rather a straightforward reflection of what’s already present… The key point about God Bless America is that it’s extreme but not exaggerated, a dark comedy that indulges — and questions — a violent, misanthropic fantasy about laying waste to the cultural landscape while staying grounded in a recognizable reality. In other words, Goldthwait isn’t doing the satirical equivalent of shooting ducks in a barrel here, though his recreations of televised stupidity do offer a funny twinge of recognition. What interests him more is how we live in that culture, particularly those who are alienated by it.
I could have made a whiney movie or a documentary about how nasty our culture is, and a couple of other people that may see things the way I do would have liked it. Or I could have made a comedy that was very aggressively saying, “Cram it” to all these people, and that’s what I chose to do.