On a rainy Saturday with not much to do, sleet was mixed with the rain, my wife wanted to go to the movies with our 10 year old son to see Flushed Away. I didn’t really want to see it that much and Borat was playing in the same cineplex, starting 10 minutes later. She didn’t want to see Borat and it was totally inappropriate for a 10 year old, so…
Anyway, I walked into the theater just in time for the start, missing all the coming attractions and blurbs for car dealers and such. There were maybe 15 people in the room, might have been even less. The movie was released a good while ago, after all. I had read and heard a lot about the film, nothing from anyone who had actually see it though.
I have to say it was much as I expected. Tasteless. Boorish. Lots of comments about Jews. Did I mention tasteless? Funny. The kind of funny exemplified by the Farrelly Brothers of the 90’s in which you laugh and cringe while doing so. It reminded me of There’s Something about Mary in that way. Two completely different movies, but having the one common thread. At least there was no nude wrestling in “Mary’ between two very hairy men, one quite overweight.
The beginning of the show was clever. I especially enjoyed the interview with weaselly former Congressman Bob Barr. Borat offered Barr cheese, saying it was customary in his country. Barr takes a little, says “very nice” in a patronizing sort of way, to which Borat replies “my wife make with her breast milk” or something to that affect. The look on Barr’s face was, like the commercial, priceless. Also funny was the interview with former Presidential candidate, Alan Keyes, which turned into a discussion of homosexuality, much to the chagrin of Keyes. Borat was convincing in his feigned ignorance of what “those men” were trying to do with him.
The tour “de farce” of Borat introducing himself to strangers on the subway and streets of New York City, trying to kiss many, relieving himself in public, etc. is quite funny as well. The interview with the feminist group didn’t go too well. The women quickly excused themselves and there were a few other skits that were not especially humorous. The Bear in the back of the ice cream truck was a little much, scaring the children who had gathered on the curb I didn’t find that funny at all..
There are several scenes in which Borat’s subjects reveal themselves to be anti-semitic, apathetic to racism or downright hateful. I’m sure some of them have been embarrassed by their exposure in the movie. I don’t think there is any way that all of them were in on the joke. The most appalling thing exposed by the movie is perhaps the crowd response at the rodeo to Borat’s statements about Iraq, wildly cheering such pronouncements as “George Bush will drink the blood of every single Iraqi”. There was one shot of a couple in the stands looking at each other as if to say “I don’t believe this idiot” while most of the rest cheered. However, the cheers turned to loud boos when Borat sings an off-key version of the Star Spangled Banner using the supposed words of the national anthem of his beloved Kazakhstan.
There was a line in the song extolling the virtues of the national swimming pool of Kazakhstan “it’s filtration system is a marvel to behold, it remove 80% of solid human waste” which drew laughs. Say what you will about Sacha Baron Cohen, but it takes some stones to stand in front of a large, increasingly hostile crowd like that. I understand he was escorted out of the arena in Salem, Va.
One of the main MO’s in Borat’s act is the gratuitous insult which he seems oblivious to. Borat is invited into a home in Birmingham, Al.and tells one of the ladies “she has a nice physique, we go crazy for you in my country”. Then he turns and says something similar to another lady. Then he turns to the Preacher and says “not so much your wife”. You could have heard a pin drop, but the most over the top part of that scene is what happens after he excuses himself to go to the bathroom. I’ll let you speculate about that.
To sum it up, the movie has had much success at the box office, won a couple of Golden Globes and garnered a lot of laughs and some acclaim. At what price is a question I’ll leave to others, with a Producer at WAPT in Jackson, Ms. losing her job over her scheduling Borat as a guest, an Etiquette expert retaining Gloria Allred, two villagers in Romania suing along with numerous other subjects. I don’t have any sympathy for the drunken South Carolina frat boys and some of the others, but some have legitimate complaints.
I believe Sacha Baron Cohen to be very clever and can be quite funny, but would maybe stop short of comedic genius. He owes much of his act to the late Andy Kaufman. In fact, he reminds me of sort of a cross between Kaufman’s Latka of Taxi, the “swinging slavs” of SNL as played by Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin, while looking like the illegitimate son of Freddie Mercury, circa 1981. The character of Borat may have become “overexposed” in this film, Cohen says he’s done with Borat. Whether you think he’s a genius or a jerk, It’s hard to imagine too many people falling for his shenanigans from here on out.