To say that Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (a.k.a. Borat 2) is a tough watch is an understatement.
That’s not to say it isn’t brilliant, hilarious and straight-up jaw-dropping — some scenes will leave you literally speechless — but more that it’s downright uncomfortable. It’s like watching someone with a big chunk of visible spinach caught in their front teeth meeting their lifelong idol; you can’t look away, but also don’t want to see it.
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The same could be said for the ongoing COVID-19 flub in the United States, a disaster to which we’re all bearing witness. As the country flails, more divided than ever under the Trump administration, it’s in a vulnerable position, prone, and ripe for exploitation.
Enter Sacha Baron Cohen, returning as his beloved Kazakh buffoon Borat, who heads back to the U.S. to help redeem his homeland and bring a “gift” to Vice-President Mike Pence. His gift, appallingly, ends up being his own daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova), who sneaks into the U.S. in a shipping container.
I’m sorry, what?
Yes, that’s precisely what happens. In one of many tongue-in-cheek gags that poke fun at the ridiculous standards women face, Borat sees Tutar as nothing more than a prize to offer up to a rich, older man. As his only “non-male son,” Borat tries to use her as a placating tool to make up for his past wrongs. Along the way, Tutar goes from 15-year-old girl living in a cage in Kazakhstan to blonde, etiquette-trained debutante wannabe.
Is she fun to watch?
In a weird, twisted way, the father-daughter storyline is almost sweet. Almost, if it weren’t for some of the things we have to see her endure. To her credit, Bakalova never once wavers. While we’re used to seeing Cohen being outrageous, it’s quite something to see a newcomer do the schtick just as well, and in some scenes almost outshine Cohen. Above all, they’re a solid pair, and together they carry the movie to insane heights.
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Who does the movie skewer this time?
In the past, we’ve seen Cohen target them all: prominent church leaders, politicians, international figures. This time, Cohen ups the ante and goes after Pence and Trump lawyer (and former New York City mayor) Rudy Giuliani in what is one of the most uncomfortable scenes in modern movie history. Widely detailed in dozens of publications, that descriptor is no exaggeration.
Other unfortunate souls who fall under Cohen and Bakalova’s satirical assault include a collection of Georgian debutantes, a doctor, more than one Republican gathering, what appears to be a pro-Trump rally and several other individuals from the U.S. South. I don’t want to spoil any of the movie’s big moments, but Borat 2 easily falls into majorly awkward territory. If you feel discomfort watching people bomb auditions on American Idol, for example, this is a million times worse.
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Is it too much?
For some people, yes, this movie will be far too much. Aside from the brutal discomfort, let us not forget this is a Borat movie — so there are dick jokes (and shots) aplenty, there is satirizing of anti-Semitism, not to mention pubic hair jokes as well as an unexpectedly graphic period scene. Brace yourself is all I’m saying. At times I didn’t even notice my mouth was hanging open in shock.
Amidst all of this, the message of the movie is not lost, and it’s a 1.5-hour satirical punch in the U.S.’s face. Racism, sexism, bigotry and conspiracy theorists are all laid bare.
So what’s the bottom line?
Not for everyone, Borat 2 is an uproarious, outrageous trip. It pushes buttons and flips switches all over the place, and its frenetic pacing keeps you guessing. You can dismiss it as schoolboy shenanigans or see it as a work of genius — it’s a matter of taste. With ramifications in the real world, however, it’s tough to see this movie as anything but brave, poking holes in things that no one else dares approach.
In sum, it’s very nice.
‘Borat Subsequent MovieFilm’ is available for streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime Video as of October 23.
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