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SXSW Review Capsule: 'God Bless America'

Photo of Steve Greene By Steve Greene | Criticwire March 11, 2012 at 1:19PM

Whether the film is really about kindness, violence, revenge or just highlighting mediocrity, "God Bless America" is finding a welcome home in Austin.
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It's been three years since Bobcat Goldthwait's last narrative writing/directing effort, "World's Greatest Dad" played at Sundance, sparking a bevy of that's-not-what-I-was-expecting reaction. Goldthwait's back with another addition to his Ironic Coffee Mug Title Series, the violence-happy "God Bless America." The story follows Frank who, when confronted with a life-threatening illness, decides to eliminate society's undesirables (with a 16-year-old girl as his sidekick, no less).

Bobcat Goldthwait's "God Bless America" will screen at this year's ActionFest.
Bobcat Goldthwait's "God Bless America" will screen at this year's ActionFest.

The film opened at Toronto last year, but a new audience is discovering it in Austin. Subversion seems to be a common theme through most of the early SXSW buzz. Neil Miller's glowing review argues that the main message of the film has little to do with violence, but instead the need for kindness, adding, "It’s the film that so many other directors have tried to make, but failed because they allowed the politics to get in the way. Brilliantly executed on all levels, Goldthwait proves himself to be in complete control."

Writing at the Playlist, Tood Gilchrist shares Miller's observation of film's optimistic streak. "Though it’s a small film, Goldthwait’s latest is a big accomplishment," he writes. " It puts him on a plane alongside some of the movies’ best satirists and social commentators, balancing humor with substantial insight and easy outrage with more difficult truth."

Jason Bailey echoes the film's successes while pointing out that Goldthwait's unconventional visual style is a complement to film's central themes. "His visual style is sparse, the grubby aesthetic sometimes veering into downright ugliness...but he guides his performers smoothly," Bailey observes.

Instant Twitterverse Reaction:

"GOD BLESS AMERICA: The best American comedy of the year. Savage and wise." - Peter A. Martin, Twitch

"Liked much about Bobcat Goldthwaite's GOD BLESS AMERICA, but it doesn't really do anything with its premise, just like your mom." - Eric D. Snider

"You miss the days when Bobcat Goldthwait was subtle, too, don't you? GOD BLESS AMERICA is good. NETWORK it ain't." - Jeremy Kirk, FilmSchoolRejects

"God Bless America is a hilarious skewering of the worst in America - awful pop culture obsessions, entitlement, et al. Loved it." - Britt Hayes, ReelVixen

This article is related to: Review Capsules, South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW), God Bless America


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