Saturday, July 11, 2009

Nog and Bruno (Read After Viewing)

My favorite moment in Bruno is probably a conversation our Austrian hero has with a preacher who wants to help convert him from gay to straight. The preacher, in attempting to explain the joys of women, ends up rambling on for a long while about his own distaste with virtually everything associated with women. It's one of the film's few subtle moments, but a fine example of what Sascha Baron Cohen's satire, at its best, accomplishes in getting people to unwittingly reveal the truths they normally choose to hide or avoid. But Bruno, on the whole, doesn't traffic in subtlety, nor do we want him to to. Cohen's new film is maybe a little more scattershot than Borat. Not everything works, and the line between "real" and "staged" seems increasingly blurred in a way that casts doubt on some of the film's more "shocking" moments. And while some of the major set pieces are howlingly outrageous (a swinger's party, a redneck camping trip, an Arkansas "cage match"), others seem to require an awful lot of set-up for very little pay-off (basic training, an interview with a supposed terrorist). Cohen seems to have two overall goals with the picture. The first, as everyone can tell from the trailer, is simply to expose what he (no doubt rightly) perceives as the consistent, underlying homophobia of America. Some of this works pretty well, as in Bruno's baiting of former Presidential candidate Ron Paul, which leads to Paul repeatedly calling him a "queer." But other scenes, while funnier, rely on the baiting of easy targets (is anyone really surprised that the redneck camping buddies are outraged when he shows up naked at their tent?). The second goal, a satire of celebrity culture, is also only partly successful. One problem, of course, is that most major celebrities know Bruno...and know to avoid him! So he's left to expose something that reality television teaches us on a daily basis: that people will do anything to get famous (although I do love the scene where a group of mothers willingly agree to let their babies be dressed as Nazis and hung on crucifixes...but is it "real?").

At any rate, the verdict is: you'll laugh!

1 comment:

  1. Dude, I actually saw this film. I'm with you on this matter of staged vs. unstaged -- the clarity of that line being essential to our reactions in a film like this: one spends too much time trying to register that which is pure and reactionary (funny) and that which is controlled and contrived (not as funny). But nothing made me laugh harder than that reference to military uniforms as "matchy-matchy."