Have you ever watched a particularly annoying reality show and thought to yourself, "man, someone should give those little twits what they have coming to them"? Well, Bobcat Goldthwait, maker of World's Greatest Dad, feels your pain.God Bless America is a 2011 black comedy written and directed by Goldthwait and starring Joel Murray (brother of Bill) and Tara Lynne Barr. The plot is basically Falling Down, played for very dark laughs. It follows Frank Murdoch, a middle-aged schlub who has lost his wife and his job, and worse, has just found out that he has terminal brain cancer — all in the span of one day,no less. Contemplating suicide, Frank's life is changed when he watches a My Super Sweet Sixteen-esque show in which a spoiled brat named Chloe throws a tantrum over getting the wrong fancy luxury car for her birthday. While most people would probably find extra motivation to go through with it after watching such a scene, Frank instead sets out to make something of the time he has left, killing Chloe and declaring war on all the annoying jerkasses and vapid pop culture figures of America. Along the way, he meets Roxanne "Roxy" Harmon, a teenage classmate of Chloe's who shares Frank's misanthropy, and joins him on his crusade.The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011, and was released on demand on April 6, 2012. Here's the red-band trailer, and here's the green-band version.
Abuse Mistake: In several scenes, the audience is led to believe that someone is about to accuse Frank of mistreating Roxy. Disturbingly, nobody ever gets this wrong idea, not even when this little girl is covered in blood and alone in a car at night with an old man who shares no family resemblance with her. When someone finally gets the idea that the girl might be abused, it's a creep who asks because he wants to join in.
Attention Whore: Roxy. The movie makes it clear that she is just as bad as Chloe and the various reality stars the film lampoons, she's just very self-entitled and typically teenage-hipsterish about it, preferring to think of herself as much more intelligent than any other teenager because she takes in a bit of older media. Yet she constantly badgers Frank to call her attractive and is disappointed when the news don't mention them by name after an attack.
Black and White Insanity: With his strict morality of right versus wrong, Frank's reality crumbles. He comes across as being less capable of comprehending the world than Roxy, who easily exploits his insecurity to get him to embark on his misguided crusade. While he's a Windmill Crusader, she seem to simply be in it For the Evulz.
The cable news pundit, the Tea Party members and the fundamentalist picketers Frank kills are also portrayed as suffering from this, either genuinely or simply pretending to get attention.
Black Comedy: Right there in the first few minutes of the film. Frank has a fantasy about killing his neighbours. The woman first holds the baby in front of her in defence, then throws it in the air (where it stays out of sight for the cameras, mind you). Frank shoots (with a shotgun), and the room is filled with blood and what can only be referred to as baby-snow.
American Superstarz stands in for American Idol (with its own William Hung, named Steven Clark), while TMZ becomes TMI. As mentioned above, the plot starts when Frank watches a show akin to My Super Sweet Sixteen.
A Glenn Beck stand-in is seen a few times in the film.
A radio station features a spot-on expy of The Opie & Anthony Show, as well as an over-the-top commercial parodying Taco Bell.
Character Filibuster: About half of the entire movie dialogue is derived from Frank and Roxy indulging in this trope.
Chekhov's Skill: Frank's ability to spin around and shoot an enemy at an indicated angle ("Nine o'clock!") that he demonstrates during Roxy's shooting training, comes back in the finale, when Roxy returns just in time to warn him of a security officer sneaking up on him from behind.
Disproportionate Retribution: Take more than one space when parking your car? Talk loudly with your friends in the theater? Make an ass of yourself on national television? Frank and Roxy will come after you.
Driven to Suicide: This almost happens to Frank and Steven Clark. However, the latter's reason is a bit more selfish and petty.
From Bad to Worse: Frank's whole life crumbles, starting with him finally realizing that his estranged daughter doesn't feel anything toward him. Then he loses his job. Then he is diagnosed with a brain tumor. All of that in a single day.
After shooting Michael Fuller, Roxy asks Frank what part of Fuller's politics he agreed with. After Frank replies "less gun control", Roxy replies that this would mean every psychopath would get to own a gun. Coming from the girl who just shot a cable news talk show host due to his politics.
Roxy's breakdown, her rant about how she's smarter than everybody else, and the revelation that she lied about her parents abusing her show that she's ultimately Not So Different from Chloe. May double as a case of This Loser Is You for anybody who cheered on Roxy for killing all the assholes.
Improbable Aiming Skills: Either Frank or Roxy hit Fuller in the leg from more than 100 meters, using handguns. That's possible, but still...
Made slightly more probable in that both were aiming to kill him (and probably aiming for center-of-mass) - they just had a... ''fortunate'' miss.
Intelligence Equals Isolation: This is what Roxy think of her life. However, there's no indication that she's actually more intelligent than the average self-absorbed, thinks-too-highly-of-herself teen.
Jerkass: Many of the people Frank and Roxy run into, but particularly this lovely gentleman.
Frank: "You really gotta take both those spots?" Asshole: "Yeah. Fuck you." Frank: *draws gun* "Fuckyou."
Outlaw Couple: Frank and Roxy are a non-romantic, father/daughter version of this. Roxy even lampshades this by dressing as Bonnie Parker in one scene.
It's made quite clear in a few scenes that Roxy fantasizes about them being a more standard version of this trope.
Perky Goth: Exaggerated in both how Roxy is Gothic to the point of being psycho and how she's perky to the point of Genki Girl. She's always talking and smiling while planning to kill people. Her clothes and hair are normal though.
Replacement Goldfish: Frank treats Roxy more or less as a replacement of his own estranged daughter, much to the frustration of Roxy herself, who wants them to be a romantic Outlaw Couple.
Retired Badass: Going by the medal in his gun box and his proficiency with guns, Frank is most likely ex-military.
Rule of Symbolism: For fun, try counting how much American iconography (flags, red/white/blue motifs, etc.) appears throughout the movie. You'll probably lose count within just the first ten minutes.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Frank and Roxy both turn up at the American IdolExpy show, Frank delivers a speech to the camera, Roxy apologizes for lying, they both open fire, and are immediately gunned down by the ensuing police force. Cue end credits.
Frank's dream is at first just like Dexter Morgan's fantasy about how everyone is cheering at him for "taking out the trash" by murdering undesirable people. (It then moves on to portray Frank as being JFK about to get shot, a reminder that it's actually not all that cool when people kill people they don't like).
The scene with the guns dealer is practically copied from Taxi Driver. Bonus points for using a Walther 38 as one of the guns — the Walther PPK, its successor, was used in Taxi Driver.
The gun dealer's line about the AK-47 is lifted directly from Jackie Brown.
An offhand remark mentions Robin Williams in a pool looking like Sasquatch. Goldthwait's previous film World's Greatest Dad starred Robin Williams and included a scene in a pool, for which he shaved his body.
Show Within The Show: Lots of them, and all of them despicable. Blends together with the main movie, since most of it is reality TV. Chloe is a Jerk Sue in her own show, but merely a huge Jerkass in the real life of the setting.
A Sinister Clue: Both Frank and Roxy fire from the left hand (at least, until he teaches her a proper firing stance).
Spoiled Brat: Ava, Frank's young daughter. Made more prominent because Frank's ex-wife spoils her; there's a notable scene where Ava throws a tantrum over not getting an iPhone (she got a Black Berry), and when Frank asks his ex why she bought a phone like that for her anyway, she dismisses him with a whine. It's indirectly addressed, but it's a big Take That towards the "helicopter parents" that have emerged in The Eighties that coddle and spoil their children.
This Loser Is You: Frank is a classic case, Roxy a variation. The audience is given every chance to identify with them. The red flags are everywhere, but portrayed in a way that allow viewers to ignore them at their leisure. However, just in case some people didn't understand from square one that they are both deeply mentally deranged and that Roxy is just as petty and self-centered as the people she — and, by extension, the audience — hates, it gets rubbed in for good measure towards the end of the movie.
Double if you think that *very* young girls covered in blood are sexy.
Trailers Always Spoil: Subverted. The trailer appears to give a summary of the entire movie, but the movie quickly deviate from the trailer. Small changes as first, but enough for the viewer to be unsure about what will happen next.
But also played painfully straight: at least one trailer for the movie shows shots from the final shootout, revealing that Roxy will reconcile. Also, combined with Trailers Always Lie: in said trailer, Frank training Roxy in shooting is shown, along with Frank's line "you're aiming at the bear, right?". In the trailer, this is intercut with a shot of the Bill O'Reilly Expy being gunned down.
Unflinching Walk: Subverted. Frank starts one when killing Chloe but the rag in her fuel tank falls out.
Windmill Crusader: Frank, who seem to believe that he's actually doing something worthwhile. Unlike Roxy, he seem rather naive — not unlike the retarded television kid he keeps identifying with and feeling sorry for for all the wrong reasons.