"[Westboro Baptist Church] said 'You would love to kill Rev. Phelps!' I said, 'No, it's a movie - I just wish he was nice. He should read some of that stuff in the Bible, instead he uses the Bible like Kim Kardashian uses her ass.'"
Frank is joined in his quest by a teenage girl named Roxy (Tara Lynn Barr) who witnesses his first hit and eggs him on to more. It's an interesting performance from Barr, but Roxy represents a set of problems the film can't quite work around, starting with only seeming to exist so Frank has someone to trade monologue with. There's a twist to her story that most will see coming right away, while the film feels overly self-conscious of the obvious question mark of their relationship and chooses to deal with it via overcompensation. Early on, Frank rants to her about his disgust for the media's sexualization of young girls and later a shady guy they meet on the road assumes Frank is molesting her and congratulates him on his catch leading Frank to strangle him to death.
"Most comedies, they shoot and shoot and actors ad lib, then they cut it down ... try to find some theme so at the end it can say 'best friends are really for life' or some bull****.'"
Roxy also sets off what has (strangely, given it doesn't involve anyone being killed) become one of the film's most controversial sequences when she launches into a rant against the movie Juno and its writer Diablo Cody - whom she calls "the first stripper whose problem is too much self-esteem." According to Goldthwait, the sentiment (and a lot of Roxy's character) are derived from his own daughter.
"My daughter is really funny, and now whenever she says something funny people go 'Oh, you're like Juno!' And she tells me 'Dad, I want to stab them right in the throat when they call me Juno! I hate that f***in' movie ...'"
"Someone said 'You've got to cut that line about Diablo Cody.' So I said 'Oh, really?' and I put in more."
The film also feels a bit too worried about being perceived as coming from a political perspective other than "we should be more civil." When it comes time to kill the O'Reilly/Beck-style TV pundit, Frank takes a moment to assure him that he actually agrees with some of his politics, he just can't get down with the hate. Roxy, on the other hand, does want to punish him for his ideology and then angrily demands to know what exactly Frank agreed with him about ("Less gun control, of course!")
"So, once [certain websites] finished ripping me apart, I went 'Well, I'm never going to win these people over.' They need people like me to hate, because that's what they do. Bill O'Reilly's not interested in change, he's not a reporter, he's not an elected official, he's just selling this distraction."
"It's like you're not even allowed to criticize America. They say 'Why don't you go to Syria!?' I'm like 'Yeah, man, there's a lot of horrible stuff done in other countries, but why don't we try to live up to the potential America can be?'"
Frank and Roxy's ultimate target turns out to be the film's version of American Idol, which Roxy hates on principal and Frank wants to punish for what he views as the cruel exploitation of a William Hung-style contestant who appears to be mentally challenged. But when it becomes clear that said contestant is a willing participant in his own humiliation, every bit as shallow and fame obsessed as "all the rest," well, you don't expect a story like this to have a happy ending, do you?
"William Hung came on the [Jimmy] Kimmel show when I was directing it, and [workers] were telling me 'Hung is such a pain in the ass, he's f***ing difficult!' I'm all 'What?' I was fascinated by that, there were things William Hung would or wouldn't do, it made me go 'Wow, everybody's corrupt.'"
It feels strange to find myself liking a film with so many clear problems, but in the end the passion overcomes (most) of its deficiencies. God Bless America is the movie equivalent of outsider art; it's unpolished, obvious and born of naked emotion. But what you're seeing is an honest window into its creator's psyche for good or ill, and I find that pretty damn interesting, even if I don't necessarily share the entirety of Goldthwait's ironic fantasy of gunning down society's rude and abusive.
It's a messy movie, but it's definitely an intriguing one and intriguing tends to be in short supply in the summer months. You may love it, you may hate it, but you'll still be thinking about it when it's over.
"This movie isn't wish fulfillment. If it was wish fulfillment, they'd be blowing up Hollywood studios, not a bunch of dumb kids on a show."
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.