Brüno (2009) October 4, 2009Posted by Dragan Antulov in Film Reviews.
Tags: brüno, Larry Charles, Sacha Baron Cohen
A Film Review
Copyright Dragan Antulov 2009
There are many ways in which humanity can be divided into two opposing camps with notions that leave little room for compromise or middle ground. One of such examples could be found in BRÜNO, comedy film directed by Larry Charles. Based on the reactions of critics and general public, it is hard not to conclude that there are two kinds of people on this world – those who like comedy style of Sacha Baron Cohen and those who don’t.
That division is not new. It was created three years ago with BORAT, film that also combined talents of Charles and Cohen. The new film uses similar concept – a flamboyant, “exotic”, over-the-top foreigner who comes to America to expose its dark cultural underbelly through series of outrageous gags. Unlike BORAT, who represented “primitive” post-Soviet East, protagonist of BRÜNO belongs to the mainstream of Western civilisation.
Brüno Gehard (played by Cohen) is a Austrian fashion reporter who hosts popular “Funkyzeit mit Brüno” television talk show. At the beginning of a film, life is good for Brüno – apart from being popular, he enjoys happy gay relationship with Filipino air steward Diesel (played by Clifford Banagale) with many of its technical details being explicitly portrayed to film’s audience. Disruption of Milan Fashion week catwalk, however, destroys Brüno’s career – he loses a job and a lover, and is forced to seek fame and fortune in America, followed by his loyal assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammarstan).
Brüno’s attempts to become famous – first as a celebrity talk show host, then by producing his own sex tape, adopting a child and fighting for world peace – fail, mostly due to tendency to express his homosexuality in most graphic ways and in the most inopportunte moment. Realising that the homosexuality might be impediment for his show business career, Brüno tries to become “straight” – by talking to Christian gay converters, stint in National Guard, hunting party and, finally, by becoming cage fight star under stage name “Straight Dave”.
Many of those who like and those who don’t like Cohen’s work might agree in one thing – BORAT was better than BRÜNO. The reason for that is, perhaps inadvertently, given in many of trailers for BRÜNO. In it, it is claimed, that BORAT was “so 2006″. Three years have passed and what used to be described as revolutionary display of comedic genius – combination of scripted gags, mockumentary and guerrilla-style making fun of unsuspecting real-life people – is now looking very old.
Furthermore, the world has changed. Three years ago, Cohen and Charles could expect accolades for taking jabs at America under Bush and its jingoism and bigotry. Few months before BRÜNO Obama’s election appeared to scatter those stereotypes into the wastelands of history. Cohen and his co-writers were left without proper targets – there are scenes in which they try to attack the stereotypical bigotry of rural, conservative America, but those attacks seem repetitive and unfocused. More promising are scenes which are supposed to satirically deal with modern obsession of celebrity. Unfortunately, they too are unfocused, and the audience will be confused about what Cohen wants to achieve – satirise bigotry, homophobia, celebrity culture or the modern expressions and stereotypes of homosexuality. Cohen does this only at the very end with “We Are The World” celebrity video that looks more like a cheap sermon that display of comedic wit.
Actually, there are very little or no examples of comedic genius in this film. Perhaps Cohen’s methods of creating humour became overexploited. Perhaps the film was – just like so many Hollywood comedies – overhyped, with the best or potentially most effective gags used in trailers and various publicity stunts months before the premiere. Cohen tries to compensate this by employing shock tactic in the form of full frontal male nudity and plenty of scenes featuring penises. Unfortunately for Cohen, this seemingly last Hollywood taboo was already broken – much more effectively – by Judd Apatow and his comedies that, unlike Cohen’s, have some meaningful plots, characters and stories. Cohen’s use of male genitalia – which is supposed to expose the inner prudishness among average viewer – only reveals Cohen’s lack of inspiration and make watching this failed film much longer than its 81 minutes of running time.