Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2020)
Rated R for things associated with Borat. Like, that should be enough of a description. But people keep falling for his hijinks. Borat / Baron Cohen loves getting people in precarious positions, allowing them to show some of their darkest personality traits. Jokes include outright racism, menstrual blood, incest, general sexuality, abortions, language, and so much more. There's nothing kid friendly about Borat, so just know what you are signing up for. Hard R.
DIRECTOR: Jason Woliner
I honestly don't know how they make these movies. First of all, when the first Borat hit so huge, I knew that there was no way to make a sequel. It was impressive enough that there was a movie based on Da Ali G Show character Borat, but the first movie became such a part of the cultural zeitgeist that everyone was doing a Borat impression. But then, the second Borat movie not only was able to get around the insane fame that Sacha Baron Cohen has with this character, but was able to tell the most timely story ever?
Part of me guesses that the cast and crew set up their big stunts first. There's a stunt and they see how it plays out. Once the stunt is over, they decide to frame a whole story around it. I'm sure, in their minds, the big stunt was going to be the Mike Pence thing. It's a great gag. It's very funny. But the problem with the Mike Pence gag (I'm just writing assuming you've seen it. That's how this is going to go.) is that Pence doesn't do anything insane. He's his typical level-headed self. Sure, it's a funny gag to see Baron Cohen dressed as Trump offering a lady to the Vice President of the United States. But Pence didn't do anything so there's nothing all that damning. But then they got the Guiliani footage. Now that the movie is out, we all know what the Guiliani footage I'm talking about is. Now, I've read both Guiliani and Baron Cohen's statement about the footage. I can see both versions. But I'm going to side with Baron Cohen on this one because it's really weird that Guiliani even got into a bedroom with a young reporter, not even considering the implication of what lying on a bed entails. (Maybe Mike Pence is onto something about his rules about surrounding himself with women outside of his wife.)
But I'm guessing that they had that Guiliani footage and they knew what they were going to do. But then the Coronavirus showed up. There's all this footage in the movie pre-Covid and then the world just ends? I mean, it affected a lot of my favorite TV shows. It's funny that stuff like Supernatural came back and decided not to wear masks for scenes that take place in 2020, but whatever. But supporting my theory, this movie looks like it was written and rewritten on the fly. Instead of fighting the world situation, like every other form of entertainment, the filmmakers decided to go with the flow. In the closing credits, look how many people got credit for the script with this movie. It's probably because they constantly had to adapt to the insanity that is our world today.
And yet, it all works. Like, every moment in this movie feels preplanned. It always felt like Borat was out there to take down Covid-19, despite the fact that there was no way that this movie could have had the foresight to comment on what was going to happen. (I suppose those early scenes could have been out of order. After all, Borat does visit a Halloween superstore pretty early on in the film.) But because so much of what they do is unscripted, the fact that there is a cohesive plot by the end of the movie is mind-boggling. I'm genuinely impressed. I thought that South Park's turnaround time was on lock, but Borat might have outdone that.
So I've gone pretty hippie. I have. I became all political this year and I'm sure that I'm not alone. Borat seems to have matched me. I'm not saying that Borat wasn't political before, but he has aligned with a lot of my politics, with the exception of the pro-life stuff. That scene was slightly more uncomfortable, despite the fact that I got the joke being about dramatic irony. In a way, I suppose that it also seems meaner. It's hard to feel bad for some of the subjects involved in the movie. I mean, they say and do some pretty awful things with a smile on their faces. Sure, a lot of it could be editing, but Baron Cohen and Bakalova allow people to often dig their own graves. I can't forget that all these people have a camera next to them. I keep flashing to every social experiment that has documentation and how people behave differently with the assumption that documentation somehow means safety. But man alive, Baron Cohen knows how to get people to do some absolutely horrible things.
But as much as Baron Cohen is a bit of a bully with some of the choices he makes, there is an odd amount of heart in this movie. It comes from two people: Maria Bakalova as Tutar and the babysitter that is hired for her. I suppose that the filmmakers always want to have people feeling awkward. Getting people to feel awkward is the movie's currency. But there are moments where good people show the best parts of themselves. Having Tutar's babysitter give advice about how to combat the more toxic influences that Borat pushes on her is genuinely cathartic. The jokes are mean spirited throughout, so having this moment is kind of redeeming overall. But Bakalova's Tutar is part of the gag, but somehow a slightly less upsetting character. It's kind of amazing that Baron Cohen found someone who could give as well as he could with this shock humor. But Tutar has this character journey that, even if the politics of the film don't align with your own, you can still glean onto Tutar's narrative to find some common ground.
It's so odd that I have to say that the Borat sequel is a kind of art. Hear me out. This movie is as crass as it can get. At every moment, the filmmakers are trying to both gross and shock the audience to get a laugh. It's some really lowest-common-denominator stuff and it revels in it. But the Subsequent Moviefilm is also trying to elicit change. Good art doesn't pull punches. It is meant to make the audience uncomfortable to question social norms. In my case, it aligned with a lot of my now firmly cemented biases (I admit it), but I also know that Borat was extremely popular with a conservative base. It does a lot of what Archie Bunker did. By having this absolutely gross guy spouting off horrible things, we can see the problems in having those beliefs. When Borat goes into the synagogue, a scene that I really thought went too far at first, we leave with this absolutely touching moment between an old Jewish grandma and a racial stereotype. Borat's ugly core beliefs allow us to question our own misconceptions and disgusting things. Yeah, it may not change us. I'm still very pro-life, but there's some stuff that shows that humanity, despite all the ugliness that is shown, has sparks of absolute light in the world. That little old grandmother made me believe that the world is full of good people who are just willing to talk and make things better.
While I may not have found the notion of Borat himself, with his absurd commentary on third world nations, all that funny, the movie itself is crazy funny. It is the Borat that we needed for 2020 because he isn't going to pretend like things are normal. While I don't know how he filmed the quarantine bit, I appreciate what the movie does for pointing out the stupidity that the world has embraced. I loved it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.