One film that’s been buzzing around the Internet over the past month is the return of Sacha Baron Cohen’s infamous character, Borat. Released 14 years after Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Baron Cohen has spent the last few months filming the sequel in America during the outbreak of COVID-19 and the upcoming 2020 election which has resulted in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime to Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Where the first film had a heavy focus on antisemitism in America, this sequel explores feminism in a way that I think the first film failed to do. Of course, as with most Baron Cohen projects, you will either love or hate this film but it you loved the first one then you shouldn’t have a problem with this one. If you’re not into shock humour or vulgarity then perhaps this isn’t the film for you but it does raise some good points on political issues which balances out the shock.
The plot for this film is simple and the title of the film changes depending on the changes in plans. After serving a life sentence breaking rocks thanks to the embarrassment his first film caused Kazakhstan, Borat is tasked with gifting Mike Pence the country’s prized monkey minister. The monkey is soon replaced by Borat’s daughter who snuck in the same cargo box as the monkey and ate it on the journey and Borat decides to give his daughter as a gift to Mike Pence and when this fails to Rudy Giuliani. In true Borat fashion, the changing titles are overly long and hilarious. The genius of this sequel comes from the fact that it is unafraid to show people who recognise Baron Cohen as Borat and utilise that to enhance the “embarrassment” that he brought to Kazakhstan.
Baron Cohen is as dedicated as ever in his performance. Apparently he stayed in character for five days straight which is a huge commitment. I was impressed with how he was able to don his disguises such as a country singer at a Republican rally but performed it as Borat doing a country singer so the accent was really jarring. There is more focus on the treatment of women in this film with the whole plot revolving around Borat getting his daughter, Tutar, prepped and prepared to gift as a bride to someone respected within Trump’s administration. As Tutar realises her worth as a woman, Borat begins to learn how women should be treated equally and this envelops slowly during the film up until the very controversial climax with Republican attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
Maria Bakalova does a brilliant job as Borat’s daughter, Tutar. Bakalova and Baron Cohen have a great rapport and even share some genuinely sweet moments together in the film. Tutar’s character arc is just as, if not more, significant than Borat’s in this film as she begins to learn and adjust to the difference in how women are treated in America than in the fictional depiction of Kazakhstan. Initially, she sleeps in a cage and watches a Disney-style animation showing how Melania and Donald met and she longs to be like the former but soon begins to realise that women are allowed to have independence, own businesses and drive cars. One such scene that is both humorous but also empowering is when she attends a Republican Women’s Club meeting and masturbates in the toilet then shares her experience with the club. Some of the women are outraged by her words, others applaud her while some tell her that it’s inappropriate to discuss such things in public.
Because everyone knows the Borat character, Baron Cohen had to don a lot of disguises so that his targets wouldn’t know that it was him. It does result in a film that is less shocking than its predecessor but one that seeks to encourage its audience to be more politically engaged by showing out the hypocrisy of society. One such scene is when a book of ridiculous traditions that fictional Kazakhstan follow shows baby sons being born as adults and molested by doctors is described as a conspiracy theory by two right wing men immediately followed by them googling Qanon so they can show Borat what the Democrats get up to in their spare time. The juxtaposing editing is hysterical because it highlights the many contradictions that have been trickled down by various politicians and the media and created a nation that is clearly fighting within itself. By highlighting this conflict and using shock as a catalyst to expose it, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm manages to feel more endearing than its predecessor.
Now I cannot stress enough that this is not a film for the easily offended. Baron Cohen has built a career on shock value and pushing boundaries and at times it can be extremely uncomfortable to watch. However, I do think that there is thought behind it in how it exposes topical issues through offensive and dark satire. It may not be the easiest film to watch but the relationship between Borat and Tutar is one of the most weirdly endearing I have seen this year. I think that in a sense, Baron Cohen as matured in his comedy and this comes through in the character.
What did you think of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm? Let me know in the comments below!