November 10, 2006 -- Borat is probably the most notorious movie in the country right now, as well as the most popular film by far. It is funny, very funny, but it is more than just a silly comedy. Like a social science documentary, it also reveals the hatred, racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia that simmers in America. Despite its rough edges, this film is brilliantly constructed in that it makes a workable narrative out of faux documentary bits and pieces. It reveals much about America and it pokes fun at political correctness at the same time. The film is fearless in that it takes on some forbidden topics, like religion. It is also jaw-droppingly tasteless. It provides a unique film experience.
Sacha Baron Cohen of “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” stars as Borat Sagdiyev, a reporter from Kazakhstan working on a story about American culture. There are very few actors in the film. Instead, the filmmakers managed to persuade a lot of unsuspecting people into signing release forms allowing themselves to be filmed in the process of making fools of themselves. These unsuspecting people were interviewed by Borat, thinking him to be a real Kazak journalist. Many of those caught in unguarded moments on film (including some who seemed to think they were not on camera at the time) have complained that the true nature of this film was misrepresented to them, and they don't like the way they are portrayed. Some college students are now suing the filmmakers over this very complaint. You would think people nowadays would be more media savvy. Regardless of how the movie was made, it works both as social commentary and comedy, walking a very delicate line.
As Borat tours the country, mugging shamelessly for the camera, he gets himself into a lot of scrapes, including barging into a convention buck naked along with his supposed producer, Azamat Bagatov (played by Ken Davitian of “SWAT”). There is also a naked pursuit through hotel hallways, in an elevator (the expression of one of the passengers is priceless). There is an etiquette lesson after which Borat gets thrown out of a dinner party. It is revealing that nobody objects to Borat's outrageous behavior at the dinner party, including bringing a bag of excrement to the table, but his hosts call the cops when Borat invites a black hooker to the party (played by Luenell of “The Rock”). The ensuing scene between Borat and Luenell is actually quite touching. Another revealing scene has Borat at a rodeo. A man there tells Borat candidly that he favors execution of homosexuals, indicating this is a political goal. The crowd at the rodeo applauds when Borat praises American troops for killing Iraqis in America's “war of terror,” but boos him when he sings the wrong words to the national anthem. In another scene, he invades an Evangelical church service and is “healed” amid people speaking in tongues. In another scene, he asks a gun store owner what type of gun is best for killing Jews. The gun store owner obliges with an answer.
Cohen is an actor who seems willing to do anything for a laugh, and does in this film. For instance, Borat is extremely anti-Semitic in the film, even though Cohen himself is Jewish. It also seems that audiences are willing to watch anything and laugh at anything in this film. The problem with the film is, of course, it is mostly composed of humiliation comedy. I'm not a big fan of this kind of comedy, but this is an exceptionally good example of it and many of the film's victims had it coming. If you go see this movie, be warned, you may be offended by it, because it aims at everybody and everything. This is one of the funniest films I've seen this year, and it is a real eye-opener, too. It rates a B+.
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