The nameless hero of Goliath is having a bad week. He’s getting divorced, a convicted sex offender just moved into his neighborhood, his job has reassigned him to a department where his co-workers call him “bitch tits,” and his cat (the film’s namesake) has run away. This is a man on the verge of a breakdown, but he’s not quite there yet.
At the opening of the film, we meet the protagonist (played by writer-director David Zellner) as he’s leaving a funeral, having just endured a heated confrontation with his soon-to-be-ex-wife and her new boy toy. As he drives away, he lashes out at her with a long, angry voicemail. When the phone finally cuts him off, an automated voice asks if he’d like to keep his message or re-record it. His second draft is limited to “Call me back.”
This guy is similarly meek at work. His bosses instruct him to fire a co-worker and take his place in a different department. “I don’t like those guys,” he complains of the new department. “They’re always farting on each other, and … lighting each other’s farts …” “We’d really like you to do this for us,” his bosses reply, and so he does.
But there’s a growing tension in this man’s world. Goliath has been missing for several days, and no matter how many “missing cat” fliers he staples to telephone poles or how many treks he makes through the neighborhood, running an electric can opener to draw the cat out, his attempts to locate Goliath are fruitless. So he begins to rebel in subtle but increasingly psychotic ways. He devastates a basketball with a chainsaw and crushes tubs of non-dairy creamer, making a mess of the break room at work. So when a sex offender moves into the neighborhood, the protagonist finally has a villain on whom to pin his frustrations.
Heroes who begin to crumble from external pressures and slowly lose their minds are common in indie cinema, but Zellner creates an almost cartoonishly amusing character who can’t seem to catch a break in his stark and mundane world. Events lead to an unpredictable ending, which has a sort of twisted logic and satisfaction