Sacha Baron Cohen's new movie was originally titled, "Borat: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan." The title had to be changed because (spoiler alert) his daughter ate the monkey, so this week, when it came out as an Amazon Prime feature mockumentary, it was styled, "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan."
Who would squander an election eve post to give a movie review? I would, if the movie does three things: Spoofs politics; gives hilarious comic relief in a dark and uncertain time when anything could happen tomorrow; and challenges our notions about our own culture, other nations' cultures, and the nature of human existence.
No one ought to take themselves too seriously or feel smug about being in the groove. This movie will disabuse one of any such notions. Appreciate capitalism much? Have a preconceived perception of Kazakhstan? This movie will infuriate feminists' sensibilities about the patriarchy, amuse anyone who thinks about the high art of lobbying the Executive branch, and marvel viewers with the creative genius of the comedians who made it.
In a running series of interviews to promote the movie, 15-year-old Maria Bakalova is being touted for an Oscar. Bakalova, portraying Tutar posing as a journalist, interviews the real Rudy Guiliani in a bedroom scene that Guiliani defends as fabrication and "a hit job." Cohen retorted on the talk show circuit, "Guiliani will not hesitate to reach into his legal briefs." "Guiliani seemed so comfortable doing that," Canadian TV commentators noted.
At times, this movie embarrassingly commodifies pleasing whichever high-level influential affiliate Cohen's boss in Kazakhstan faxes him to: Michael Pence and eventually Rudy Guiliani. On "Good Morning America," young Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova says of the Guiliani scene that she never felt unsafe. There was a crew filming inside a hidden wall. Cohen praises the actress, saying she is remarkably talented. On "Jimmy Kimmel Live," both of the comedians promoted the movie in a hilarious impromptu skit in character.
Aboard Air Force One, Trump commented, saying he had not seen the movie, but from what he knew, Borat was a creep and a fraud. Baron Cohen responded, thanking Trump for the movie plug, and said he is a professional fraud - like Trump. Has the president met his match?
There is so much funny about this movie. It is dense with ridiculous comedy, done up in a no-judgment way. "We give people you would despise normally… as good people," Sacha says in retrospect. He spent six hours in makeup to don a fat suit and eventually passed security into the CPAC Conference, where he hid for five hours in the bathroom to make his appearance as a Donald Trump stunt double, carrying his daughter over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
The double-edged sword of Sacha Baron Cohen is that he is both funny and also brilliant at exposing absurdity. Moviegoers who saw the original movie "Borat," and were left wishing for more, will be entertained now that Cohen is back and even funnier than ever. This is not a suitable movie for children or teens, though. It deals with dark adult subjects at the intersection between politics and human trafficking, sexuality and patriarchy.
Spoiler alert again: Ultimately, Cohen's father character comes to terms with a new-found appreciation for his daughter and he redeems himself such that he doesn't have to go back to Kazakhstan to be executed for failing to perform his mission. Viewers will either really like or really dislike this movie.
Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee citizen, attorney, and artist living at Lake Tenkiller.