Friday, October 23, 2020

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm


After spending more than a decade in a gulag as punishment for bringing unprecedented shame to his country, Borat Margaret Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) is back with an offer from the national government to redeem himself as well as the nation. The plan is to offer the country’s Minister of Culture and most famous porn actor Johnny the Monkey (a literal monkey) to Donald Trump, a ploy to regain the trust of the United States. Before leaving for America, he discovers that he has sired a daughter named Tutar (Maria Bakalova) who is now a teenager and kept at the family’s pigsty. Their father-and-daughter meeting is cut short as he ventures to the west, despite her pleas to take her along with him. His plans are sabotaged as Johnny the Monkey’s crate arrives with the remains of the dead primate inside, along with Tutar who has eaten him during the long journey. Out of ideas, Borat gets a eureka moment realizing that he could offer his daughter to the American president instead.

I can’t even remember the first film anymore. The lack of plot does not really help to jog my memory but what I do recall is how brilliantly absurd the concept was. You don’t really need a plot for a mockumentary like Borat. It is more of a collection of short unscripted skits with only one goal, which is to expose the societal ills ever prevalent in ‘Merica, lurking not far from the surface of the glitzy American Dream. You’d like to think that after a decade of absence and the notoriety gained by the character in the first movie, the American public would no longer fall for this. Sorry to break this to you, but you have too much faith in them.

What is scripted and what is not, we can’t really know for sure, but the elicited reaction is just what you'd expect. With the latter half of the movie filmed during the pandemic, there is enough material to play with as far as antivaxxers and your typical redneck lore are concerned. Cohen’s methods might be questionable to some extent, but you have to give it to the guy. He knows his shit. What you get in the end is an unlikely combo between the hilarious and the tragic. It is funny indeed but if you dig deeper, it comes across as rather scary realizing that people with such mentality actually do exist.

For what it’s worth, though, Cohen and his team were also able to stumble upon some rare gems that make you want to renew your faith in humanity. Take professional babysitter Jeanise Jones, for example, who gives Tutar sincere and motherly advice about her womanhood. And then you also have Holocaust survivor Judith Dim Evans who reacts to Borat’s antisemitic tirades with compassion. In this regard, whoever edited the film deserves some kudos for at least showing two sides of the populace.

However, if there is one person in the cast who deserves all the raves, it has to be none other than Bakalova. Virtually unknown on this side of the Atlantic, the Bulgarian actress can consider this as her Hollywood breakthrough. Enough has already been said about the challenges of improvisation in acting style to which she is not accustomed as well as filming during a pandemic. Her bravery in taking on such a role and what it entails paid off big time. You only have to see her Rudy Giuliani interview to be a fan.

And of course, Tutar also lends a semblance of a steady subplot by virtue of the character’s journey to self-realization. This is perhaps what was missing from the first film. Here you get to witness both a storyline as well as a nuanced character arc, not just for her but also for her father. At the end of the day, despite the absurdity of it all, it is that aspect that stands out to be memorable enough. Suddenly, there is a plot to follow in spite of the rehashed formula.

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