Borat Subsequent MoviefilmReviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 10/24/20 08:48:28
(Worth A Look)
“I was tucking in my shirt” might just be the movie critique of the year. Then again, look at the year.In Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Sacha Baron Cohen brings his big-hit satirical character Borat Sagdiyev out of retirement, and the result is sporadically explosive, with more obviously staged sequences than I remember the original 2006 Borat having. Here, Borat is apparently too recognizable to Americans from his previous film, so he puts on a fat suit, a beard, and a wig that all make him look like an Amish elder who’s gotten into too much butter. There are some scenes where Baron Cohen, in one disguise or another, interacts with people who don’t seem in on the prank, and many others where Borat hangs out with characters clearly played by actors — a couple of QAnon hicks, a black woman Borat hires to look after his 15-year-old daughter.
The daughter, Tutar, is very much the movie’s saving throw, and the 24-year-old Bulgarian actress who plays her, Maria Bakalova, swipes the movie right out from under Baron Cohen’s thick mustache. He lets her run with it, knowing what she brings to the party. Tutar is intended as a gift to Mike Pence on behalf of Borat’s mother country Kazakhstan, but her babysitter points her towards feminist awakening and rejection of the fearful sexism Borat teaches her. Loudly and crassly, at fancy events for shocked rich white people, Tutar embraces the feminine. Some of the movie’s more screamingly funny moments (it’s too bad we can’t see this in a packed and roaring theater as it deserves) don’t involve Borat at all; it’s all Tutar, and Bakalova jumps into each fresh outrage with both feet, hungry for life and pleasure.
The shirt-tucking moment has gotten all the press, but really it doesn’t tell us much we don’t already know, which is to say — to quote All the President’s Men — “these aren’t very bright guys, and things got out of hand.” So to speak. It’s a good gotcha moment, but in truth, the subject’s predatory leers beforehand tell a more disturbing story. Maria Bakalova deserves hazard pay, not only for the “sex attack” she may have narrowly sidestepped but for sitting within feet of America’s mayor as he coughs and hacks into his hands. Much of the movie was shot as the COVID crisis unfolded, and I’m sure the production observed strict protocols, but it’s still a chilling moment. This is a man so monstrously privileged and delusional he just figures your space is his space. He moves in a world where he gets to accompany a very young-looking girl to a bedroom, lie down, and stick his hand down his pants. Or he gets to cough at her.
This Borat sequel has nine writing credits (the original had five), and there are stretches where you can feel the chaos being wrested into a narrative, an arc wherein Borat learns to love and respect his daughter. It’s a far different movie than the first Borat was; it feels like a transitional film from Borat’s punk-brat origins to something with more heart, albeit Hollywood heart. Baron Cohen, himself Jewish, apparently continues to think anti-semitism is smashingly funny, or at least allows for dark satirical doodling. Some will no doubt chafe at the scene in which Baron Cohen brings out Holocaust survivor Judith Dim Evans to inform Borat that, yes, the Holocaust did happen. I think, for Baron Cohen, anti-semitism represents all other forms of idiotic hate, and as always, the sharpest scenes come when Baron Cohen can get random folks on camera heartily agreeing with Borat’s blinkered, almost childlike racism.Stick around for the end credits — no mid-credits scene, but an absolute stomper of a cover of “Everybody Dance Now” by the Russian punk band Little Big.
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