Movie Review Posted by: Dale Franks
on Saturday, November 04, 2006
This evening, The Lovely Christine and I needed to get away from everything tonight, so we went out for dinner. After that, we went to the theater to catch a movie. The movie we chose was Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
There's been a lot of hype about this movie, and that doesn't necessarily mean the movie's good. In this case, though, the movie pretty much lives up to the hype. It might not be for everyone, though. It's probably the most intentionally politically incorrect movie I've ever seen.
But while it is a bit uneven, especially in the second half of the movie, there were still scenes that had me laughing so hard I was in tears.
The film is a quasi-documentary, in that half of it is scripted and half of it is real. The character of Borat is the creation of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. The story arc is that Borat, a television news reporter from Kazakhstan, goes to New York to learn about American culture, and bring that knowledge back to his home country. Whil in New York, Borat sees an episode of Baywatch, falls in love with Pamela Anderson, and decides to travel across the country to marry her.
The real purpose of this story arc is to allow Cohen, in his Borat persona, to perplex—and upset—the real Americans he meets as he travels across the country. Borat is an unregenerate misogynist and anti-Semite. This is essential to the movie, because it is the source of so much of the train-wreck element of the movie. When Borat announces that he is about to meet with a group of feminist group leaders in Manhattan, you begin to cringe, just knowing what will happen. You know there's going to be a train wreck, but the fascination lies in watching to see just how far off the rails the boxcars are going to go.
For instance, he meets the feminists, and in his broken, Russian-accented English, he asks the three feminist leaders what they mean by "feminism". When one answers "Feminism is the idea that women are equal to men," Borat just laughs in their faces. Things go downhill from there, until the offended feminists stomp out of the meeting.
At a genteel dinner party in the south, Borat asks people what they do for a living. When one attendee answers in a southern accent that "I'm retired", Borat looks at the host, and says, "It is very nice of you to allow retard to come to party." Borat also plays up how backwards Kazakhstan is, so, when he asks to be excused to go to the bathroom, the guests all discuss how, despite his disadvantages, he could quickly be brought up to speed and become an American.
A discussion that stops abruptly, by the way, when Borat returns from the bathroom with a little plastic bag filled with...something squishy.
But even that doesn't end the dinner party. Soon, however, Borat does manage to end the party, and be thrown out with warnings that the Sheriff has been called.
Some Americans handle Borat with more aplomb than others however. The best guy was the Chevy salesman. Borat tells him, "I must have a car to attract the women who do the shaving of their lower parts." "Well, you want a Corvette," replies the salesman, without missing a beat.
At the same time, however, it is a disturbing film in parts, as you listen to the most outlandish, racially-charged opinions come out of the mouths of otherwise nice-seeming Americans. It's amusing when Borat shows us the "Running of the Jews" in Kazakhstan, a comically exaggerated (and nonexistent) ritual practiced by the quaint, foreign bigots of his backwards little village. It's far less so when you hear Americans pining with regret over the abolition of slavery. We all know bigotry exists, of course, but it's uncomfortable to watch it expressed, especially on a huge screen that's looming over you.
In the last 25 minutes or so of the movie, they concentrate more on the story than on the impromptu meetings between Borat and unsuspecting Americans, so the laughs are relatively fewer. Overall, though, the movie is both highly —and equally—cringe inducing and laugh inducing.