July 21, 2009

Sacha Baron Cohen has the unique talent of thriving in uncomfortable situations rather than withering from them, which is perhaps why he’s made such a successful career out of deliberately causing discomfort in his interviewees and his audience. After Borat we get Brüno, a character who also popped up briefly in one of his earlier Ali G vehicles (I think). I won’t go into the plot because really there’s not that much to say. Apart from a few details it follows the same formula as Borat, but with a clueless homosexual Austrian TV star replacing the clueless Kazakhstani TV star. Both revel in the culture-shock, fish out of water impact that they have on their journeys around the USA. Both Borat and Brüno have male assistants with whom they form a bond, have a falling out and then are reunited, with Brüno‘s reunion being the set up for one of the most inspired and hilarious sequences in the film.

Many have issued complaints about the fakery of certain sequences in Brüno, but it is fairly obvious which scenes have been set up and which are genuine, and shouldn’t detract from your enjoyment of the film. What Brüno does prove is that Cohen is at his best when thrown into a situation where improvisation is essential. It’s just a pity that these scenes are too few and far between with contrived, over-glossy inserts taking precedent over the abilities which Cohen became famous for. This is almost certainly why Brüno isn’t as resounding a success as Borat, though that’s not to say that it isn’t worthy of a viewing.

What many will go to see Brüno for is ‘outrageous’ comedy and the exposure of some of the deep-seated prejudices harboured in certain US demographics. Unlike Borat, Brüno’s levels of controversy feel relatively low because many of the shocking elements are visually graphic rather than mentally provocative and problematic. That’s not to say that there aren’t some un-P.C. truths revealed in Brüno, it’s just that there impact is lessened because the homophobia of the ‘normal’ American people is aimed at such a caricature of homosexuality.

If you’ve read the above and think that I’ve been overly harsh or negative it’s only because Cohen still has the potential to shock and inspire laughter with his outlandish creations, evoking hatred in some and sympathy in others. It’s just a shame that Brüno isn’t as good as it feels like it could be, though you should definitely go and see it because there are some really very funny scenes nestled in amongst more mediocre gags.


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