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Film Review: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Arts Review2020-10-30By: Marc Glassman

 

He’s back. And this time he’s brought his daughter!

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Jason Woliner, director

Sacha Baron Cohen, actor, co-producer, co-script, co-idea

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat Sagdiyev), Maria Bakalova (Tutar Sagdiyev) Rudy Giuliani (himself), Mike Pence (himself), Judith Dim Evans (herself, a Holocaust survivor), Jeanise Jones (Turat’s babysitter), Dani Popescu (Premier Nursultan Nazarbayev)

Reviewed by Marc Glassman

How many of you thought that making a sequel to Borat, the biggest comedy hit of 2006, was a bad idea? I certainly did. 14 years ago, having a crazy journalist from a country called “Kazakhstan” report on what was going on in  “the U.S. and A.,” seemed incredibly silly but entirely worthy of some loud guffaws.  The resulting film was far better than expected: its combination of reality TV, cultural appropriation, slapstick comedy and docu-drama techniques meshed into a wonderful mess that made people laugh. Comic auteur Sacha Baron Cohen, whose Ali G character had already become famous in the UK, nailed down his legacy with his portrayal of Borat Sagdiyev, whose exuberant expressions, indecipherable accent and strange prejudices hit funny bones around the globe. Before anyone in the United States knew who he was, Baron Cohen could persuade people to do preposterous things with him—and that was the basis of much of the humour. When Borat became such a success, Baron Cohen decided to retire the character because too many people knew  him and wouldn’t play along with his absurd ideas anymore.

It may have taken almost a decade and a half to figure it out but Sacha Baron Cohen has been able to make a second Borat work. The trick was to focus the fun on someone else than Borat and in Turat, his Kazakh daughter, Borat Cohen has found just the right person to wreak anarchy in the USA once again. Not only is the Turat character instantly funny—she’s such a wild and crazy rural “girl”—but the casting couldn’t be better. Maria Bakalova, a Bulgarian, is a complete unknown to Western eyes but she has the energy to match Baron Cohen’s Borat. This allows the pranking from the first film to continue since Borat, wearing a fat suit, looks somewhat different and, of course, no one knows Turat.

The political and social landscape of the U.S. has changed considerably from 2006. While life during “W” Bush’s regime was hardly a bed of roses, the country wasn’t anywhere as divided as it is now. In 2020, we’re in Trump’s America, allowing Baron Cohen to let loose with salvos of wicked humour around the hypocrisy and sexism that is taking place now. Which brings us to the plot, such as it is,  of this “subsequent moviefilm.”

It involves Borat being sent by the premier of Kazakhstan to give Trump a present. But Borat already had fun with Trump back in 2006, so the premier agrees that he can give his monkey (the Minister of Culture) to Mike Pence. Unfortunately, Turat eats the monkey on her way to the U.S. so Borat decides to give his daughter to the Veep instead. More absurdity ensues until it’s agreed that Turat should be given to Rudy Giuliani, not Pence.

The Giuliani scenes are the most controversial in the film. They definitely took the media by storm. Put simply, Giuliani was “punked” like many celebs were back in 2006. We see him being interviewed in a hotel suite by Turat, who is made up to look like an East European version of a Fox girl. It’s clear that Giuliani is getting more and more interested in Turat and when the interview is over, they end up in the bedroom for drinks. He asks for her number and, for some reason, is shown with his hands in his pants, at which point Borat emerges, saying “She’s 15; she’s too old for you.” Needless to say, Baron Cohen and Giuliani’s versions of what happened in the hotel differ greatly. It’s nice to know that anyone with an Amazon Prime account can see it and decide for themselves.

Behind this big scene is the only serious theme in the Borat sequel—and I know we don’t expect deep thinking in this kind of broad comedy. What we can do is trace Turat’s education into becoming a modern woman. Over the course of the film, she changes from Borat’s obedient daughter, expecting to be humiliated (and pressured into going for breast augmentation), into someone who can take charge of her life and become a successful journalist. Of course, the treatment of this sentimental journey couldn’t be more simplistic but it’s there as a narrative arc throughout the film.

Naturally, this sequel can never match the shocking humour of the original Borat. But you’ve got to hand it to Sacha Baron Cohen. Thanks to the coup of having  Maria Bakalova in the film and having some genuinely funny scenes (including the one with Giuliani), this “subsequent” version of Borat is definitely worth seeing.

 

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