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A personal favourite. Not for everyone, quite controversial and surely violent; more of a cathartic experience than a movie itself.
This film breaks all the rules in the most cathartic way. It's just as dark as it is hilarious. Definitely a fun movie and well worth checking out
While Bobcat Goldthwait's later film Willow Creek (2013) wasn't my favorite, this film is actually an impressive comedy. It features a memorable performance by Joel Murray, who plays a character that we really feel for. And while it features some of the darkest comedy out there, what's also impressive about God Bless America is that it has a deeper message to it, on the modern mocking internet culture we live in. It's funny and contains a bunch of fun gory shoot-outs. It's unfortunate that this movie didn't go into the mainstream. But anyways, good dark comedy and recommended!!
If Bobcat made this movie in 2018, it would be even more violent based on how much more idiotic people have become.
I feel like so many people are missing the fact that this movie is as much about uncomfortable truths as it is about some well-trod social commentary. Almost every review seems to overlook the fact that the movie is also about honesty, a running theme in all of Goldthwait's movies. It's almost enough of a subplot to count as the co-plot. So, I'm just going to ignore what I'll call Plot 1 (Frank and Roxy shoot-em-up blah blah blah), and talk about Plot 1A.
*****WARNING: SPOILERS OUT THE WAZOO*****
Plot 1A begins with Roxy's first (and note-perfect) line: 'Hey, creepy. Isn't the whole high-school girl thing a little played out?' This is what I call Roxy's Spider-Sense Moment. It's not that Frank is a creep, but it is telling who he chooses as his first victim, especially since he then takes on Roxy, a high school girl, as his rampage partner. Roxy, I believe, senses this weak spot in Frank (our everyman, representing well-meaning but deeply flawed humanity), and why she feels confident in seeking him out.
Later, in the thrift store scene, she tests him, and becomes angry not just because Frank doesn't give her the answer she wants, but also because she believes he's not being honest with her. You can see her irritation in the increasing crudity of her questions, as Frank continues to give the answers we expect (both in terms of what we expect from the scene, and what we'd expect of a moral, ethical adult in that situation). Frank does the right thing, here, but the viewer can't be certain yet he's doing it because he is devoid of that weakness or because he's in denial. When he evades her, she soft-pedals the question, trying to wrangle an honest answer from him. The scene culminates with Frank lashing out at her for making him uncomfortable, and Roxy storming off, incensed.
And remember, Plot 1A is about honesty. It's not about whether or not Frank and Roxy would/could/should get romantically involved, any more than Goldthwait's examination of honesty in relationships in Sleeping Dogs Lie was about women blowing dogs. We all know they shouldn't, and we all wish they wouldn't, but this isn't the point. It's truth-telling through another of Goldthwait's agonizingly uncomfortable devices. Frank and Roxy have abdicated; they've chosen to walk away from our world. They're creating their own, with its own rules, in which murder is not just okay and even fun, but a moral imperative (they're making their world a better place, after all). So who's to say what other rules they may decide to make up as they go along?
This tension builds throughout the film, subtly, as the relationship between these two lost souls deepens. Frank gruffly attempts to maintain his distance, while Roxy - who has less responsibility to be the adult - inches ever closer. It's not long before they share the bed (in as safe and respectful and platonic a manner as possible), and Roxy is nursing Frank's migraines with her pressure point hand-massaging. They begin to go out on what are cringingly close to dates. They slow dance to karaoke. Roxy leaves the bathroom door open as she begins to undress for her shower, and Frank hurries to close it - after a moment of hesitation.
It comes to a head in a diner scene, in which Frank - fresh from discovering new lease on life due to a clerical error at his doctor's office - agrees to Roxy's proposal to move to France and live a less homicidal life... together... ish. All this time, Frank has maintained a distance from Roxy which is - if not entirely innocent - is at least entirely proper. Roxy leaves for the restroom, and a nearby patron asks Frank how much for the girl. Frank dismisses the man, who derides Frank's protests of innocence. (This is probably the biggest misstep in Plot 1A. It wasn't necessary to make the man a monster. I get that he's a dark mirror of Frank, and justifies what Frank does later, but the point would have been more impactful had he merely been looking askance at the middle-aged man clearly starting to respond to Roxy in less than morally upstanding terms.)
Disturbed by this encounter, Frank later finds the man and strangles him to death. Most reviews/recaps cite Frank being upset to discover Roxy lied to him about her horrible parents - who turn out to be completely normal and loving - as the reason. This is, IMHO, wrong. Perhaps Frank is upset to learn Roxy lied to him, but this is the thinnest of pretexts. He murders the man because the man was right to assume Frank had lost his way with Roxy. Frank is killing a manifestation of his weakness. Using the same thin pretext, he argues with Roxy and leaves her, with the excuse that she lied to him. (This is ironic, since he's really leaving because he's afraid he may not be able to maintain the lie he's been telling her: that he would never consider any romantic involvement with her, because she's a child, and it would be horribly wrong.)
Leaving aside the murdering, Frank isn't a monster. He never behaves inappropriately toward Roxy, and we get the sense he might never, even in France. But that's said with heavy emphasis on the 'might'. Throughout the film, Roxy's own feelings are less ambiguous, seeing in Frank the life she's always wanted, even if it comes in a chunky, middle-aged package. It's never made clear she sincerely wants to be with Frank in that way, but she drops enough hints about not discounting the possibility for the viewer to deduce she only lacks encouragement. If she ever got that encouragement (or got it before she became an adult), then Frank *would* be a monster.
In the final act, the viewer gets a little cheat to resolve the question of honesty between Frank and Roxy. Knowing he is going to die, and caring enough to let her die on her own terms, he finally answers her question. 'You are,' he says, knowing he'll never have to face the consequences of the admission, 'a pretty girl.' Despite dodging the creepy implications by promptly killing both characters, the film offers closure. Frank is finally able to be honest with Roxy, and Roxy is satisfied her friend had told her the truth.
Honesty. Frank can't be honest with Roxy until the end, but Bobcat Goldthwait can be honest with the viewer, and more to the point, won't let the viewers lie to themselves. Youth and beauty are powerful attractors, and the measure of our goodness isn't in denying that, but in choosing to act morally given this basic truth. Goldthwait makes the point by allowing Frank to fail before the viewer's eyes, then rescues the audience from blood-curdling cringe by killing him off. Had the movie ended in France, could the viewer believe Frank would maintain his decency? After watching him slowly give way to the preference for ninety-odd minutes? The audience is spared such questions, but the point is made. Honesty between people isn't always the best idea, but it's always important within ourselves.
So, despite all the critical comparisons between God Bless America and Falling Down (which was hardly the first movie to canvass this well-worn territory), they are different movies, with only a few superficially similar themes. Both films have been done many times (as has the older man/younger woman trope), but Goldthwait manages to wring truths from both plots few if any of the other treatments have. Frankly, I suspect many of the negative reviews to be knee-jerk denials of the truths in Plot 1A, rather than Goldthwait's spin on Plot 1. (On a side note, I also suspect it would have multiplied its $123,000 box office earnings by orders of magnitude had it been made in 2018.)
So twisted but good.
I wish I could give this no stars. This is the most pretentious and hypocritical movie I’ve ever seen.
Black comedy which will gross out most of the trailer-park dwellers and all trump supporters, but who cares? See it and a tip of the hat to ellen page and rainn wilson who broke trail for them with super(2010) .
Dark and painfully true in parts, equally very funny in parts, but dark
It's not what you think. Really. God Bless America should, in fact, have been titled God Help America - because it's going down the crapper fast.
In a nutshell
Frank is driven over the edge by reality TV, spoilt American brats, possibly a brain tumour, but mostly the American people's having lost their ability to be kind. Frank decides to do something about it. With a gun, of course.
Mood of the film
Darkly funny. Murderous. Kind. Yeah, really. The fact that Frank and his partner in crime dress in thrift store attire adds to the darkly funny nature of this film. Check out the "house on the prairie" dresses and sweaters!
Joel Murray (last seen in South Africa as the clown-loving Eddie Jackson in Shameless) plays Frank as endearing, menacing, but most of all coherently clever.
You're not going to like it. It's offensive and violent, but oh so effective. It is a dream sequence, luckily. It involves clay-pigeon-type shooting. The pigeon is a baby, though.
Too much of the film is given away in the trailer. Even though the killings are still powerful and relevant, they were almost all included in the trailer.
Is the film relevant today?
Does it cop out?
Nope. Frank is not insane, depressed or driven to these acts by the brain tumour. Roxy was not molested or thrown out of the house. They are completely lucid and aware of what they are doing. They might have different reasons for mowing people down, but they're both committed right to the end.