There is little questioning that America, as a rule, dislikes homosexuality. Sure we put up with it, but when there is major support to amend a document designed to guarantee equal rights to all citizens in order to deny rights to Gays then I would classify that as a real distaste. Thus enter Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s second attempt to alienate American audiences, and shove our hypocrisy in our smug faces…oh and make us laugh along the way. With its utter disregard for the lines drawn in the cultural sand Bruno is overtly tasteless and objectively hilarious, but only if you are willing to be objective about the subject and yourself.
After a brilliant bit revolving around an all Velcro suit Bruno, the host of Austria’s “Funkyziet,” is shunned from the fashion world. Knowing that in the vapid world of haute couture notoriety is the only VIP pass needed Bruno sets out to get famous. Much like Borat each hair brained scheme the Austrian fashionista comes up with is another bit of hijinx Cohen can play on his unsuspecting victims. This film goes from one controversial issue to another using hot topics like Peace in the Middle East and Adolph Hitler as comedic springboards, most times with tear-jerkingly funny results. Featured prominently in the trailer the bit involving O.J., Bruno’s adopted African baby is truly priceless, and the “interview” with sitting U.S. Congressman Ron Paul made me feel a little violated, but in a good way.
The arena in which this film soars is the effect is has on the audience. Most of the bits involving graphically silly homosexuality are designed to test the viewers’ patience, and force them to face their own comfort level when it comes to man on man action. The film is constructed to separate the open minded wheat from the close minded chaff. Abundant walk outs are a sure thing here.
Sitting on the front lines of this culture war waving an exposed member at his right wing enemy is Cohen. Fearless doesn’t come close to capturing the man’s attitude. Whether being chased by Rabbis though the streets of Israel for dressing up as a provocative man-slut Orthodox Jew, or propositioning a gun toting NRA member in the nude, there must be something inside him that can shut off all nerves in the service of comedy. Even as a folding chair soars inches from his skull he refuses to break character, and as such he should be applauded, if nothing more than for his sheer balls.
The film’s director, Larry Charles, is no stranger to audience alienation. Having directed the lion share of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Religulous, and Borat Charles has distinguished himself as the foremost authority in making the viewer feel uncomfortable. His directing chops might never be revolutionary, but his courage is legendary.
The only sticking point I do have with the film is that Cohen, who is British, makes pains to point out the failings of American culture while not looking at his own homeland for their own problems with the issue. Israel takes some licks (though they have actually legalized Gay marriage), but America is really the focus of the Cohen wrath. Don’t be mistaken, this is social commentary in the guise of comedy, and while it is true that America is often moving the wrong direction on tolerance of LGBT issues, most of the world, the UK included, are right there with us.
El Luchador Rating: 4 out of 5 (4 out of 5)
Review by: Paul Myers