God Bless America

This is Bobcat Goldthwait's call to kindness. It involves guns.

Mar 8 2012, 5:00am

Within five minutes of God Bless America, I’ve seen the most offensive thing I’ve seen in quite a while. No, it’s not when a baby is shot and his mother is covered in his blood—it’s the fucking sparkliest, rhinestone-encrusted fleur de lys t-shirt on the planet, something that’d put even the king of Eurotrash on his trip to Hollywood Boulevard to shame. From here on out, such icons of American idiocy—over-privileged and unappreciative teenage bitchery, energy drink masculinity, water-cooler mentality, conspicuous consumption embedded into social and cultural interaction, media completely missing relevance and lacking any integrity, a public mistaking entertainment for knowledge—are pig-piled in a squealing heap. Then Frank, the main character played by Joel Murray, a middle-aged man with a sense of common decency, hits rock bottom and decides to go on a killing spree, putting all of it out of its misery.  Along the way he makes friends with a teenage girl and it never, ever gets creepy.

God Bless America says we idolize the wrong things, we prey on the weak for fun. It gets pretty heavy in certain places—like when the main character delivers one of his many condemning, Network-esque soliloquys about the state of affairs, and it feels a tiiiiiny bit like maybe Dad needs to lighten up. Then again, there’s a certain satisfaction in watching his despair build, then evaporate in a shower of bullets, the fantasy we’ve all had for wanting to waste some asshole on his cell phone come to life on screen. We asked Bobcat Goldthwait a few questions about it.

VICE: You shot this in 13 days. Why so fast?
Bobcat GoldthwaitI don't believe a movie benefits from extra time. I think the reason most studio movies are so bad is because they get too much time, and too much money, and they really suffer for…OK, that's all we could afford.

How much of God Bless America is your worldview? There seems to be a good amount of sincerity here.
While I won't go so far as to call GBA autobiographical, I will say that if you spent an evening watching TV with me and the wife it would not sound totally dissimilar.

It seems you made certain things about this purposely not plausible—there were no cops after them, ever—so as not to encourage a killing spree. Or am I reading too far?
Oh, we just couldn't afford that many uniforms and cars. I am not worried about encouraging maniacs. If you're the kind of selfish, paranoid, unstable person who would shoot someone and blame it on a movie you're going to do whatever you're going to do. Violence in movies doesn't encourage violence in life, it just gives people something to blame that's easier to attack than our social welfare policies or bad parenting. Besides—this movie isn't a call to violence, it's a call to kindness.

While it’s fun to fantasize about obliterating the assholes, it seems they’re here to stay. What now?
I'm asking people not to be so rude. I'm not asking people to kill reality stars or pompous conservative mouthpieces. I'm not even asking them not to watch them. I'm asking us, myself included, is this really the best we can do? Is this the best way to spend our time? Does everything have to be so mean and/or stupid? The beauty of a capitalist society is that if you ignore something, it goes away. My wife won't buy any magazine with paparazzi shots of "celebrity babies," because if enough people do that, the magazines will stop buying those photos. I will never, no matter how juicy the byline, click on anything that will lead me to TMZ, because I don't want to be counted as a hit to their site that garners them ad money. And no one I know will even mention the name "Kardashian" out loud, because every time you do, they get a dollar. If we refuse to pay for garbage, one day they'll stop trying to sell it to us.

God Bless America is available On Demand April 6 and in theaters May 11. Details here.


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