Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Sacha Baron Cohen's secret sequel proves to live up to the original
Sacha Baron Cohen has been pushing the boundaries of comedy, documentary, and filmmaking like no artist has done, not only in years, but perhaps ever. The British actor has become fascinated with prodding out our real personas in unassuming manners. This has led to films and shows that have been truly terrifying and hopeful for what they show about our society. Baron Cohen first stormed the filmmaking scene with his blockbuster hit Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006). Now, in secret and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Baron Cohen has speedily made a sequel titled: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm finds our titular reporter Borat (Baron Cohen) imprisoned for bringing shame to the nation Kazakhstan with his first film. However, with President Trump now in office in the United States, the Kazakh government employs Borat again to get into America’s good graces. This launches Borat back to the states with his stowaway daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova).
As with the first Borat film and the underrated Bruno (2009), Baron Cohen employs a documentary-style. Where his character interacts with real and unassuming people and strangers. This is the method that allowed Baron Cohen to deliver such vivid critiques about our norms and taboos as a society. Baron Cohen knows no limits as to what to ridicule about Western attitudes; this proved to be refreshing both in the first Borat and Bruno, and certainly in this Borat sequel. But this particular style of filmmaking is make-or-break for viewers, there will hardly be any audience-members left feeling indifferent. I have to confess when I first saw the original Borat, I was not a big fan. I felt it took things too far and was seeking to be offensive for the sake of laughs. However, it is precisely my attitude there that Baron Cohen was trying to point out and mock. We’ve become so stuck up in our beliefs and rules, customs and traditions, that we have become blind to everything else. As a result I’ve become an increasing fan of Baron Cohen’s work.
The difference of this Borat sequel from its predecessor and Bruno, is that Baron Cohen has given it a more political spin. We’ve already seen this trend with Baron Cohen recently, regarding his work on TV, with the similar fake-documentary style Who is America (2018) and his dramatic work in The Spy (2019) and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020). The world has no doubt become much more attuned towards political ideology since Baron Cohen’s first films, and thus he justly reflects such a change. One should therefore be made aware that Borat Subsequent Moviefilm does not remain apolitical. However, one can hardly blame Baron Cohen for taking advantage to prank and spoof some very specific figures. One of which, towards the end, we shockingly (or perhaps not so shockingly) witness commit political suicide.
Sequels have the unfortunate weight of their predecessor’s success. The first Borat came out of nowhere, and the surprise factor, of its style and humor, blew viewers away. This novelty has worn off with Baron Cohen’s later work, and it has unjustly made many view his other work in a dimmer light. With Borat Subsequent Moviefilm one definitely loses the organic freshness that the original had, however, the humor and even lightly sketched narrative are still fairly effective. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is largely a father-daughter story, replacing the other comical but emotionally cold relationship of the first film of Borat and his producer. This, I saw, to be an improvement from the first film, as apart from laughs one was able to discern some semblance of character arcs. The film also takes on a more feminist approach, providing effective messages about woman empowerment all the while indulging in misogynistic jokes; if any other film has done that, please let me know. And I have to confess the finale of the film is at once the most genius, hilarious, and insensitive ending one will find today. Bakalova as Borat’s daughter turns out to be a star in the making. Her ability to stay in character in situations just as uncomfortable as those that Baron Cohen faces is truly admirable and envious for any fellow actor. She truly held her own against the improv master, and even stole his spotlight in some scenes.
In the end, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is another insightful and bold film from Baron Cohen. There are many scenes that will leave you horrified as to the attitudes of certain people, but there are others which fill you with hope. Borat has never been an easy comedy, and yet this kind of filmmaking is something that should be admired from lover of art; in fact, it might be the clearest example of provocative art. Society is increasingly becoming ideologically polarized, this film holding up a mirror and drawing mustaches on us might just be the thing we need, to slap us out of it.