movie film review | chris tookey


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  Bruno Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
5.26 /10
Bruno - Sacha Baron Cohen Lutz - Gustaf Hammarsten Bruno - Sacha Baron Cohen , Lutz - Gustaf Hammarsten ,

Directed by: Larry Charles
Written by: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer, Jeff Schaffer

Released: 2009
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: UK/ US
Colour: C
Length: 80

Braver than Borat, and just as funny.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Sacha Baron Cohen’s last mockumentary, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, survived the length and complexity of its title to become one of the most profitable films ever made. It cost 18 million dollars, and made at least 262 million worldwide.

Small wonder, then, that his follow-up sparked a bidding war between major Hollywood Studios, with Universal Pictures ultimately winning the right to present it.

It’s a noticeably more polished effort than Borat, although guerilla methods were clearly used to shoot sequences in some extremely daring locations. Though four writers are credited with the script, much of it is obviously improvised by Baron Cohen, who is extremely adroit at never stepping out of character, however dangerous the situation.

The fictitious hero of the new movie is Bruno, a 19 year-old fashionista who prides himself on being Austria’s gayest export. He’s camper than the Eurovision Song Contest, and desperately wants to be as world-famous as Adolf Hitler.

In honour of the 73 year-old engineer Josef Fritzl, Bruno announces that his aim is to "live the Austrian dream of finding a partner, buying a dungeon and starting a family."

Did that joke make you smile or cringe? The whole of the film doesn’t so much tread the thin line between humour and tastelessness, as trample all over it.

Bruno isn’t that new a creation. He first surfaced in sketches during 1998, and appeared on The Ali G Show. But he’s much less familiar than either Ali G or Borat, which is clearly why Baron Cohen chose to make him the central figure in his satirical comedy.

Much of the picture is a cruel but witty send-up of celebrity culture, as this braindead idiot consults various Hollywood “experts” on how to become famous without any discernible talent. Sadly, he seems to have been unable to gain access to Paris Hilton, so has to make do with a variety of such latterday Hollywood horrors as American Idol judge Paula Abdul, and advisors on how to organise charity events to generate self-publicity.

One of the funniest sequences comes when Bruno adopts a black African baby, on the grounds that it worked for Madonna and Brangelina. His resulting confrontation with a predominantly black and justifiably offended audience on a daytime TV show is priceless.

When he is preparing to make a promotional video, his interviews with Hollywood parents willing to make their children undergo any danger for the sake of a job, such as operating heavy machinery, being driven fast without a seatbelt or having liposuction, are horrifyingly funny.

The crowning glory comes when he asks one proud mum if she’d let her young son dress up as a nazi and push a Jewish baby in a wheelbarrow into an oven. She thinks for a moment before replying brightly “That’s fine as long as he gets the gig!”

Satirising the vacuity of Hollywood may not be all that controversial, but the barbs do find their target. Despite being extremely crude, Baron Cohen’s humour does have an ethical content. In fact, he’s one of the only moralists working in movies today.

The latter half of the film is mainly, and much more controversially, dedicated to lampooning homophobia.

It starts when Bruno realises that pretending to be heterosexual may earn him that all-important passport to celebrity. “Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kevin Spacey all have one thing in common,” he declares in a moment of mock-epiphany. “They’re all straight!”

There are very funny scenes as Bruno tries to learn from some extremely dubious “therapists” how to be “cured” of his homosexuality.

Just as amusing are sequences when the new, trying-to-be-butch Bruno goes hunting with some good ol’ boys but is unable to resist chatting them up with the line “Look at the four of us – we’re just like the Sex and the City girls”. When one of them mumbles an objection, Bruno comes back roguishly with “That is such a Samantha thing to say!”

Especially when deliberately riling hardline Hasidic Jews and a Lebanese terrorist, Baron Cohen is brave, bordering on foolhardy.

The boldest section, as in the rodeo sequence in Borat, comes when he mixes with southern rednecks and whips them into an anti-gay frenzy. The scene where Bruno appears at a hardcore wrestling match with his former gay partner, Lutz, and turns it into a homosexual smoochfest had me crying with laughter.

Though the film has been cut to a pacy 80 minutes, not all of it works. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the elderly Republican congressman whom Bruno tries to seduce in a hotel room. There’s a thin divide between edgy humour and boorish invasion of privacy, and there are moments when Bruno crosses it.

The movie is even lewder and cruder than Borat, and emphatically not for those of a prudish disposition.

Some homosexuals are bound to feel angry at the stereotypical, often extremely graphic images presented of gay sexuality. The movie portrays homosexual practices that you don’t need to be homophobic - or heterosexual - to find disgusting.

So repellent are a few of the images that some heterosexuals are going to have their homophobia reinforced – which is precisely the opposite of the film-makers’ intentions.

There’s no getting away from the fact that Bruno’s persona is unsympathetic. Other openly gay celebrities, such as Graham Norton, Julian Clary or Allan Carr, are cosy by comparison.

Where Borat was endearing in his innocence, Bruno is breathtaking in his decadence, creepy in his aggressive determination to become a celebrity at any cost. This makes Bruno the film a much colder piece of satire.

There’s an extra element of creepiness to the finale, where Bruno records a musical finale with superstar celebrity guests – Sting, Bono, Elton John and the like - all of them clearly attracted not by Bruno’s fame, but by Sacha Baron Cohen’s.

It’s hard in some of the bawdier sequences to work out whose exhibitionism is on display: Bruno’s or the actor playing him.

But is this a very funny film? Absolutely. And is it courageous and ground-breaking? You bet.

There is no braver satirist than Sacha Baron Cohen today, working in any medium, and I salute him. This movie is going to be as big a hit as Borat, and deservedly so.

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