Sunday, 12 July 2009
UK comedian Sasha Baron Cohen's third movie (hands up who'd forgotten the one with Ali G) once again proves that context is pretty much everything when it comes to his style of comedy. Coming in at a tight 75-odd minutes - he packs so many jokes in you won't mind the short running time - the story is as thin as some of the outfits Austrian fashion reporter Bruno wears: after being kicked off Austrian television for ruining a fashion show, Bruno travels to America to become famous. Of course, this is just an excuse for various comedy set-pieces, from having gay sex with the ghost of his dead boyfriend Milli (from Milli Vanilli) and learning how to defend himself against a gay attacker welding a dildo to trying to broker Middle East peace by getting both sides to agree on humus and going on a hunting trip with a group of increasingly gay-unfriendly redneck hunters. Cohen's not afraid to push things to get a reaction and there's a number of images and scenes here that push the boundaries of good taste for the sake of a laugh, but it never feels gratuitous or overly nasty. Which is kind of a surprise, as various elements in the media seemed all set to denounce this as some kind of homophobic nightmare. Despite the pre-release drama, it turns out Bruno is too much of a sweet but utterly clueless airhead to be a symbol of any kind of lifestyle outside of one driven entirely by a lust for fame. As with Cohen's earlier film Borat, much of the impact comes from seeing the extremely camp and suggestive Bruno interact with real (often homophobic) people, but this time around we all know what to expect so if you're the kind of person who isn't all that good with taking things at face value - that is to say, if you're a bit of a humourless cynic - you'll probably want to annoy the hell out of your friends during the post-viewing discussion by going on about how much of this was staged. If, on the other hand, you're someone who actually enjoys laughing, then you'll get plenty of opportunities to do so here.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #458)