14 July 2009

Movie Review: Bruno


2009, 82mins, R
Director: Larry Charles
Writer (s): Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer, Jeff Schaffer
Cast includes: Sacha Baron Cohen
Release Date: 10th July 2009

Sacha Baron Cohen has in the last few years proven himself one of the best modern day comics around. After stealing scene after scene in Will Ferrell’s “Talladega Nights” Cohen marched on and delivered a fantastic mockumentary with”Borat” giving the people a thirst for his no holds barred shenanigans. Now the man of many faces has elicited the last in his line of eccentric caricatures for a motion picture of his own, a gay Austrian fashionista called Bruno. In the same vein as he did in “Borat” under his ridiculous alias Cohen marches on America unleashing wave after wave of jaw dropping comedy whilst shrewdly showing up the population amidst the comedic chaos.

After losing his job on an Austrian fashion show Bruno (Sacha Baron Cohen) decides his world of glamour and supermodels is to superficial and so decides to hit America in the hope of becoming the biggest Austrian celebrity since “Hitler”. The people of America struggle to accept his homosexual antics and often vulgar brand of idiocy leading Bruno with only a handful of crackpot schemes to get famous. Throughout the film Bruno amongst other things adopts a black baby from Africa, attempts to become “Straight” and test runs his own brutal celebrity themed TV show.

Ultimately people are going to want to know how “Bruno” measures up against “Borat”, they’re stemmed from the same brain and work from a similar faux documentary template. I would have to concur that Cohen’s 2006 offering nabs it for me but that isn’t to say “Bruno” is a disappointment, just not as fresh and utterly ludicrous as its predecessor. Cohen still has bundles of barrier shattering comedy to offer and his eye for social commentary and the unsuspecting victim remains untarnished meaning that “Bruno” retains a spirited tally of laughs.

Everybody knows that Cohen can slip effortlessly into the skin of his creations and here is no exception. It’s easy to understand how ordinary people and celebrities could be feigned into seeing his exaggerated sketches as inordinately vulgar beings thus allowing their own darker sides to come through via a reaction. We know that Cohen’s super campy representation isn’t the real deal but many of those interviewed don’t, often allowing their own brutal and offensive perceptions to slip through in the process. Amongst those targeted for attack this time around are Paula Abdul and Ron Paul, the latter whom Bruno attempts to seduce in a truly hysterical sequence.

It’s clear that unlike last time the film here isn’t a wholly organic experience, as success and fame have crept up so to has public awareness and now Cohen’s alter egos are more likely to be spotted as frauds. “Bruno” clearly features a few more faces in on Cohen’s game than “Borat and a few sequences where one has to assume staging and scripting came into play. Director Larry Charles does good work to try and give every moment the raw energy and unpredictability of the previous outing but even the best filmmaker would struggle to build up every instance perfectly and thus at times “Bruno” almost feels like it’s cheating the audience.

That said the comedy is still terrific and Cohen’s reputation as a top class showman remain untarnished. The extremes he pushes himself to remain outstanding and the comedic hooks and screenwriting buffers utilised only add to the product in terms of laughs. “Borat” had more than its fair share of raucous, randy and politically incorrect humour but “Bruno” might even spike things up another notch, the film after all apparently having received an NC-17 rating on first run through the MPAA. However whilst proceedings are now R rated the easily offended are still warned to keep a distance, Cohen will go to any lengths to get giggles and make socially relevant points even if that means gay pygmy sex. Nothing is too far or to outrageous, the situations might not be quite as wacked out or inspired as those in “Borat” but they certainly push the boat out as far in terms of crude and extreme side splitters.

Obviously the low brow comedy is supported by a rash of smarter sub texts, Cohen unlikely to provide a feature without some deeper agenda. Many a person comes of looking like a fool in “Bruno” and like “Borat” it offers up a damning view of extremist America, opening up a Pandora’s Box of social commentary and eye opening observation. Granted two men bonded together by fetish apparatus is funny but forcing them through an anti-gay protest adds to the chortles and helps Cohen prove his point. It’s this element of hidden intelligence that takes “Bruno” above most line crossing comedies and into the realm of something smarter.

“Bruno” lacks the edge of “Borat” but is still an immensely entertaining and at times observationally valuable comedy, mining vulgar laughs and social cluelessness to wonderful effect and bringing up questions amongst the giggles. It’s hard to see Cohen being able to do something like this again thanks to his now superstar levels of publicity but as far as last hurrahs go “Bruno” is respectably loud.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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