Austria’s most provocative fashion commentator exposes much more about America and the male form than many people feel comfortable with. This is the basis for Sascha Baron Cohen’s third foray into the motion picture world and the most provocative yet. In going to see a movie like Brüno one fully expects to be overwhelmed both sensorily and emotionally by Sascha Baron Cohen’s onscreen antics. The formula of shocking audiences into simultaneously laughing and being wholeheartedly disgusted is one that originates out of the original segments on Da Ali G Show, the birthplace of both Brüno and Borat. It was not until Borat, however, that this formula was perfected, creating an ingenious balance of slapstick comedy and socio-political satire.
In theatre’s most of the audience of Borat was entertained by Borat’s bastardization of the American language and his keenness to combine his Kazak values with that of typical American ones. The real substance of Borat, however, emanates from his uncanny ability to reveal the most backward sects of contemporary Americana. But while Borat tackled a whole host of issues relatively equally, Brüno seems to focus only on the questions and implications of gay rights and celebrity (and often their connections) in modern day America.
The central storyline of Brüno is, as in Borat very simple, an Austrian fashion icon, fired from his position and fallen from fame comes to America to regain some semblance of celebrity. Each attempt at this is more depraved and desperate than the last, stopping at nothing to achieve fame. The brilliance of this attempt is in its simplicity. Everyday we are inundated with show after garbage show of washed up celebrities and desperate peons willing to do almost anything to attain any semblance of publicity. This debasement of television standards and human intellect as a whole is exactly what Brüno embodies. If nothing else Brüno is an exposition of the intellectual spiral downward of reality television and celebrity exposés. A devolution of the species right before our eyes from high intellect to greed and vanity indicated by those we deem “role models”.
That is not, however, the only message Brüno seems to be sending. The other is evident in American attitudes towards open (or any for that matter) homosexuality. What is made abundantly clear is that hostility towards homosexuality is still prevalent throughout much of the country. one would think that in an era of supposed forward thinking and progressivism widespread bias and all out violent hatred of something so innocent and normal would be virtually non-existent. Brüno delegitimates that belief, however, and quite literally throws his homosexuality in the faces of those who still retain any bias. What’s more, these same people willingly demonstrate their ignorance flouting it as a point of pride, displaying t-shirts emblazoned with phrases like “My ass is for shitting”. Who are these people that submitted their skewed values to any videotaped affair in the internet age?They clearly are not ashamed and perhaps even proud of offering up their children children to be subjected to stinging insects, full frontal collisions and needless weight-loss surgeries to name a few. Or their exhibitions of virulent and often violent disgust at the sight of two men engaging in a homosexual embrace.
While early scenes depict the movie as a sophomoric vision of gay sexuality, the overall tone of the film seems to overshadow that, instead illuminating the inefficacy of tolerance to permeate the whole of society. It is for that reason that Brüno plays more as a satiric documentary meant to inspire action through its ironies rather than two hours of gay clichés. Perhaps though, that is too bold a statement and Sascha Baron Cohen just thinks weiners are funny. Regardless, the movie certainly succeeds in what is certainly its primary goal, in being pretty fucking hilarious.