Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
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Within the realm of Sacha Baron Cohen-level absurdity is this coming-of-age story of a young woman who breaks out of a patriarchal cocoon to find that female free will does exist.
Borat Sagdiyev, who after humiliating his home country with his previous “moviefilm,” gains renewed hope with the assignment of bringing Johnny the Monkey (aka the Kazakh Minister of Culture, and yes, an actual monkey) to “ladies man” Mike Pence. But quickly Johnny and his role as an offering to an American statesman is replaced by a stowaway, Borat’s daughter, who has sneaked into Johnny’s crate. We’ll just say that we never hear from Johnny again.
The introduction of his daughter, Tutar Sagdiyev, played by fantastic newcomer Maria Bakalova, breathes fresh life into Borat’s antics. Cohen offers Bakalova the room to play on public expectations, just as he has done for decades, welcoming a deeper presentation of gender dynamics to complement the Borat lens on racism.
The film’s focus shifts to Tutar blossoming into a groomed, spray-tanned blonde fixture that might just catch the eye and pants of a American politician. With the help of her dad, Tutar consults with experts in the field to learn to be a “desirable woman,” including a social media influencer/sugar baby (professional lander of wealthy older men) and a debutante coach. The moments where real people speak their truth about women remind us that modern nods to the dowry system persist.
The culminating scene of this film is, of course, Rudy Giuliani’s unwitting guest star performance as an inappropriate older man with waning power. Curious where he drew from.
Wearing his Borat character like a well-washed graphic tee, Sasha Baron Cohen’s trademark irreverence carries a cathartic quality that might be an antidote to the emotional virus that is 2020. But the film really takes off with the unleashing of Tutar and her journey to discover womanhood, which, much to her surprise can in fact include business ownership, a driver’s license and literacy.
Bakalova attacks the art of clown and character commitment with the fearlessness of…a Sacha Baron Cohen. She and Cohen have a chemistry that is undeniable, both clearly operating from the mindset that when striving for believeability, hit the gas at 150 miles an hour or don’t bother starting the car.
People who are down with subversive humor that includes abortion jokes and frequent references to genitalia. Or people that are not … if you’re in the mood to be your own provocateur.
Awards season chatter includes Borat Subsequent Moviefilm in best film projections and Cohen on the list of strong possibilities for best performance. Always deeply dedicated to a bit, Cohen underwent six hours of prosthetic transformation to turn himself into Donald Trump for a stunt in the film where he crashes the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). After narrowly escaping an identity reveal by a TSA officer, he hid in the bathroom at CPAC for five hours listening to Mike Pence and fellow conservatives drone on.
Bakalova underwent several auditions for the part, including acting out scenes with real people alongside an in-character Cohen, beating out nearly 600 other actresses.