Mark Simpson on Sacha Baron Cohen’s Austrian anus-dilator
Let’s be honest, Bruno is pretty bad. And quite tedious.
But not as bad, or as overlong as this earnest review of it by a crestfallen Anthony Lane in The New Yorker:
‘There is, on the evidence of this movie, no such thing as gay love; there is only gay sex, a superheated substitute for love, with its own code of vulcanized calisthenics whose aim is not so much to sate the participants as to embarrass onlookers from the straight—and therefore straitlaced—society beyond.’
Which happens to also be inaccurate: one of the biggest disappointments in a film brimming with disappointments, was the way that after literally jamming a pedal-powered dildo up the audience’s behind, Bruno copped out at the end with a gay marriage and conventional Hollywood love-story happily-ever-after. Schmaltzy gay wedlock replaces kinky bumsex and Bruno is seemingly cured of his predatory lust for any and all men that come his way – and even his own narcissism. Hurrah!
Sacha Baron Cohen saw you (and GLAAD) coming, Miss Lane.
I know, I know: neither of us have much to whine about as there really is no need to see any SBC film. Everyone should know that now. Disappointment is SBC’s stock in trade. Anyone who actually goes to see one of his films – and lots and lots of us do – automatically disqualifies themselves from criticising it by making themselves look even more stupid than SBC’s unwitting and (increasingly) unsophisticated victims.
Not just because all the best gags have been relentlessly trailed months before the opening, but because the endless publicity opps and stunts are the nearest thing to a point. And let’s be blunter than the gay Austrian’s most terrifying sex toy: Bruno’s be-thonged buttocks in Em’s nose-wrinkling, fear-distorted face at the MTV Awards was, oh, about 1000% funnier than anything in the film. A film which is, reassuringly, even more vacuous than celeb-addled fashion victim Bruno himself.
But if everyone knows this, it seems the more educated you are the less likely you are to admit it. Or likely to take a film like this seriously. A lot of tosh has been written in ‘quality’ publications about how this ‘clever’ movie ‘confronts homophobia’. The film makes rather a lot of fun of bummers and their bumming – which, I’m all in favour of, of course. But not under the cringe-making guise of ‘confronting homophobia’ – that kind of guff makes me gag, and not, as Bruno might say, in a good way.
SBC himself effectively admits that he’s not ‘confronting homophobia’ by making Bruno so annoying/desperate as to be beyond sexuality – and sympathy. He’s in a category of his own. Usually he only manages to make people – such as the rednecks he goes on a hunting trip with or the swingers – lose their temper and use un-PC words (shock! horror!) by literally getting into their faces. And frankly, if someone had smacked him in the face it would have made the film a lot more watchable.
The unaccountably critically-adored Borat was an embarrassingly bad and (this is being kind) pointless movie that likewise presented as its official message: ‘anti-Semitism is wrong and stupid’ – while basically offering the viewer an anti-Slavic extravaganza, complete with ruthless economic exploitation and humiliation of Romanian peasant extras. (The character of Borat was originally based on a Southern Russian – Kazakhstan is just a red-herring).
So instead of a review I’ll just tell you about the funny bits you might not have seen in the trailer, or saw but forgot, to save you the trouble of seeing the film yourselves – even though I know you’re going to anyway.
1) The eye-popping sequence early on the film where Bruno describes him and his ‘Pygmy’ boyfriend as ‘just like any other boring couple’ and then we see Bruno ramming everything in the house up his boyfriend’s bumhole, and vice versa, including a bottle of champagne, a fire extinguisher and a pedal-powered dildo. (This was probably my favourite part of the film – but only because I knew it would incense the ‘gays are just like everyone else!’ crowd.)
2) The interview with Christian ex-gays, when Bruno says to one of them, who does look very faggy,
B: ‘It’s a shame you are straight because you have cocksucking lips.’
X Gay: ‘These lips were made for praising the Lord.’
B: ‘Your lips were definitely made for zomething, but not that.’
(Though personally I prefer his very similar TV interview nearly ten years ago when he asked one of the Christian ex-gayers about ‘gay’ habits of his that he might have to give up: ‘What about eating chocolatey things all ze time?’ Came the earnest reply: ‘If eating chocolate is a shared family experience then that is fine – but if it is something that reminds you of your previous lifestyle, that’s wrong in the eyes of the Lord.’ In fact, I think I prefer the Bruno and the SBC of ten years ago – he was less extreme, more likeable, more whimsical, more… funny. But if you look up some clips you’ll also see that Bruno of ten years ago is… what straight men look like today.)
3) The very short ‘Bruno Joins the Army’ section, where he is shouted at by three US National Guard DIs (who are clearly in on the joke) is rather amusing, but was done much better nearly 60 years ago by Jerry Lewis in Jumping Jacks.
4) It’s not very funny – more creepy and cringe making – but one of the few scenes that doesn’t look staged (probably because his victim is so old as to be clueless about SBC) is the interview with former Presidential Candidate Ron Paul. ‘He’s queer! He’s crazy!’ says Mr Paul, fleeing as fast as his rickety old legs will take him after Bruno starts undressing next to him in a hotel bedroom.
He’s not queer, of course, and he’s not crazy. He’s just very, very ambitious -and even more ruthless. SBC, that is.
The ‘climax’ of the film, where Bruno, having ‘straightened himself out’, appears in a cage fight in some redneck town is clearly something SBC & Co. feel very proud of, but I’m not sure why. In it he starts undressing and kissing his opponent (who is actually his German assistant, the one whom he marries at the end of the film in the next scene). The crowd, which has probably been stage-managed, goes wild and throws chairs, women scream, grown men cry. The camera zooms in on all of this, while romantic music plays. It feels like something powerful is being said – but that’s it. It just feels like it. Largely because of the music and the fact that there is no punchline.
‘Homophobia’ isn’t being ‘confronted’ – a bunch of rural rednecks are being exploited. By a sophisticated, Cambridge-educated, Hollywood comedian in order to make him even more famous and fabulously wealthy than he already is – and get even more big names to join him for the charidee record spoof that rolls over the credits. After all, everyone can feel superior to rednecks.
Oh, and the whole movie, and the concept of the Bruno character going to Hollywood is redundant from the get-go: why would America need to import a foul-mouthed fame-fag with no sense of shame or self-consciousness from Austria? After all, it already has Perez Hilton.
If you want to watch a movie about a fashion victim that is actually funny and doesn’t leave the wrong kind of bad taste in your mouth, rent Zoolander.
The only filmic spoofs that SBC does that work any more are the ones he plays on the liberal film critics like Mr Lane.
And that kind of gag isn’t nearly funny enough.
Tip: Elise M