When you get a crowd at a music festival chanting along to lyrics that say "Obama and journalists, what do we do?, Inject them with the Wuhan flu, Chop them up like the Saudis do", or get a couple of Duck Dynasty looking guys say the virus is better than the Democrats, you begin to get just a hint of how far down the road of self-parody and mutual loathing we have gone in the world today.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is the hilarious sequel that premiered today on Amazon Prime, if the name didn't make it amply clear, to 2006's breakout comedy hit, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. It stars once again the intrepid Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) traversing the USA trampling every norm of decency, while simultaneously helping spill out the grotesque indecencies that reside in the hearts of "patriotic" Americans. Every dark angel of current American society is laid bare in all its sordid ugliness - racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, misogyny, ostensibly conservative family values, creepy old politicians that blithely tout those same values. It's all done with the rapier wit cloaked in empathy that Cohen has made his trademark. The inexorable way that the victims are reeled in, and to mix metaphors, drawn like moths to a flame, is a sight to behold. None of the folks being skewered and exposed have even a clue that they have been gutted and filleted. In fact they are more than willing participants in sharing their inner selves with someone they see as either a kindred spirit or a harmless buffoon. They are dead meat before they even hear the assassin's bullet.
There are powerful and famous people who get targeted like Mike Pence, and in the climactic piece de resistance, Rudy Giuliani, whose creepiness quotient one could not have imagined could go any higher, but actually does so with a level of practiced sleaze. You expect nothing less from the chief sycophant of a President who himself has openly boasted of sexual harassment, talked in highly inappropriate fashion about his own daughter, and was very good friends with a convicted trafficker like Jeffrey Epstein. But the real story lies not in them, but the everyday folks like the gentle ladies of a civil society group or the participants of a debutante ball or an unscrupulous plastic surgeon. The evil that lurks in their hearts, cloaked in a veneer of charm, is the scariest part.
This movie, like most Sacha Baron Cohen fare, is certainly not for the squeamish and is an acquired taste. It's in-your-face humor, and what's in your face could be someone's chram - you need to see the movie to figure out what that is. Once you get past the initial shock, if this is your introduction to his oeuvre, then the rewards are laugh out loud hilarious. You are gasping with awe while doubling over. He had explored many of the same tropes in his brilliant 7 part series on Showtime, Who is America? (2018), with the same damning results. This movie with a running time of 97 minutes is now squarely set in the age of Trump and Covid, and like last week's release, The Trial of the Chicago 7, reviewed here, and also starring Cohen in a pivotal role, could not have come at a more opportune time prior to the most consequential election of our lifetimes. The election will not solve all issues, and the vitriol and venom unleashed into the body politic by a demagogue pursuing a scorched Earth policy, may take a generation to heal. But the choice we make on November 3, and the person on the podium at noon on January 20 giving the inaugural speech, will ultimately reflect who we are, and whether the USA, like the fictional version of Kazakhstan here, is a glorious nation.
October 23, 2020