Biting satire leaves its mark on America
Review: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Released back in 2006, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, now seems like a horribly dated film. With all of the impersonations that followed, and ways that the character’s creator Sascha Baron Cohen is now all too easily recognised, it is hard to see how a sequel could work in 2020. Thankfully, Borat has something to say in 2020.
As a mixture of in-character improv pranks and staged scenes, the Borat TV show and films oftentimes engage in gross out humour to test people’s politeness.There is plenty of that on display in this second film. There is, however, more to Borat than gross out jokes and funny accents.
The story sees Borat freed from a Kazach gulag and given a mission to deliver a gift to the Trump administration. He is surprised to learn that he has a daughter, Tuta, who lives in a barn. Tuta stows away with him in the trip to the US, where she offers to become a bride to Vice President Mike Pence when the initial plan fails.
Sascha Baron Cohen has long said he wants his comedy to expose people’s prejudices. By dressing as a stereotypical foreigner, he allows himself to be the outsider that people open up to. And they have a lot to say in Trump’s America.
Perhaps tapping into this sentiment is the film’s best contribution. Ahead of the US election, and with the Caronavirus running rampant, Cohen captures some of the very worst elements of American society, as otherwise polite types drop the thin veil of respectability and share the racism and sexism always bubbling under the surface.
There are also the odd moments of remarkable kindness. Particularly inspiring is the encounter with Judith Dim Evans, a holocaust survivor who worked to educate people about her experiences. With scepticism about the Holocaust rising in America at arming levels, Cohen wanted to include this scene to make a point. To make sure he achieved his goal, he ensured that he clued Evans in on who he really was and what the scene was meant to achieve, one of the rare times he has done so while in character.
Another highlight is the introduction of Maria Bakalova, a young Bulgarian actress who Cohen says deserves to be Oscar-nominated for her performance. While much of Tuta’s character serves as gross out humour (much like her father) her advancement to self-actualisation and gender equity is worthwhile and even touching at points.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but if you have any sensibilities, Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm will offend at some level. That’s also kind of the point. Beyond Cohen’s attempts to make his audiences cringe, it is nice to see that he wants to make them think, and to expose the prejudices sitting just below the surface.
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm is streaming now on Amazon Prime. It is also available to rent on iTunes and Google Play.