Bobcat Goldthwait – the name conjures up Muppet-voiced standup comedy and manic turns in a slew of POLICE ACADEMY films. Of late he’s dropped the shtick in favour of directing a bunch of edgy TV shows and the Robin Williams starrer and cheekily named WORLDS GREATEST DAD. Obviously this was his first visit to Midnight Madness, and he brought with him a little slice of political, polemical fun.
GOD BLESS AMERICA tracks Joel Murray (excellent in MAD MEN, and growing into the same hounddog droop that’s made his brother Bill so very much luchre) as he finally reaches his wits end. Tired of his job, his family, and disgusted by the current state of American pop culture, he’s finally triggered to action when watching some particularly appalling reality television show. He packs his things and heads off to put a stop to one particularly awful contribution to society, only to find a kindred spirit in the form of Tara Lynne Barr. As the two cross the country, part road trip, part rampage, they go through the usual up and downs films of this nature usually provide.
At its best, the film is absolutely hysterical. Murray’s rants are epic in scope, often running minutes with pile after pile of vitriol spewed about the current state of affairs. Lynne Barr manages to avoid descending completely into cliché, and the chemistry between the two of them comes across as genuine. The script is little more than a series of set pieces to either express excess carnage or clever diatribes, and yet it still manages to avoid outstaying its welcome until the bitter end.
There’s pacing issues, it all gets a bit silly by the end, but there’s a lot to like about the film – it played extremely well with a committed audience at midnight, there’s no question about that. It’s hard to see how outside the sanctum of a Midnight Madness crowd that the film’s going to play, let alone how it will be perceived in the states. I joked after the screening that Goldthwait might be the first filmmaker in TIFF history to be tried for sedition or treason upon returning from the fest, and that’s not entirely an exaggeration considering the lengths the film goes through to uncover the truly ugly parts of American culture.
A great, committed cast, an acidic script and a fearless director – excellent ingredients for a film that wants to be both cerebral and shocking. For treating its audience like adults, stunted as we are, I give all my blessings to GOD BLESS AMERICA to find an audience receptive to its message.