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BRUNO, 2009
Movie Review

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BRUNO MOVIE POSTER
BRUNO, 2009
Movie Reviews

Directed by Larry Charles
Starring: Sasha Baron Cohen
Review by Gabrielle Domingues



SYNOPSIS:

Borat trickster Sacha Baron Cohen returns to the big screen to offer yet another stinging dose of sociopolitical satire in this comedy that finds him assuming the persona of gay fashionmonger Bruno, the self-proclaimed "voice of Austrian youth TV." Originally conceived as part of Cohen's cult television series Da Ali G Show, the character of Bruno offered a cleverly costumed Cohen the opportunity to highlight the absurdities of the fashion industry by interviewing unsuspecting fashion icons and other haute couture hangers-on.

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REVIEW:

If you are reading this Bruno review, you may have absolutely no preconceived notions about the film, but more likely you find yourself already inhabiting one of two camps. Referencing the movie itself, these distinct categories can be classified as the "Funkyzeit" side and the Army side. You're either on board for the outrageous ride, or you're inherently offended on principal. I myself find Sacha Baron Cohen's comedic stylings, and particularly his Bruno character, inimitably entertaining. These are characters, in a movie, so my foremost priority going in is just simply that - to be entertained.

I think I feel more delighted by Bruno than Borat because Bruno feels like more of a pop-culture character, and so more akin to the figures that usually intrigue or amuse me, as is my personal entertainment proclivity. Borat was more of a 'fringe' character, both in his characterization, and in the novelty of Cohen's whole shtick three years ago. Obviously, each approach, and resulting material, end up quite similar. Regardless, each time - perhaps only more so with the reinforcement of this second outing - the viewer is inarguably engaged by the character's antics, and great appreciation must be afforded Cohen's commitment to his art.

Yes, I said "art". To pull of such brazen, guerrilla comedy is no trivial feat, and Cohen accomplishes so in spades. I can't even think of a worthy comparison! There is some suspicion that the filmed scenarios are staged, or at least supplemented with planted players, of which I am not wholly convinced and which I nevertheless find excusable (if not irrelevant). This being Cohen's second time at the rodeo (so to speak) in three years, after the wildly popular exposure of Borat, the ante is upped on the mock-doc style and ambush approach; of course some grounding of forethought and semblance of control would be necessary for an outcome of successful material. There is no "Take 2's" on this film-making ride..

This immediacy is palpably evident in almost every on-screen minute, from Bruno's sit-down with Middle East politicos and terrorists, to his incendiary appearance on a talk show, and outrageous bating of stage mothers at a baby-modeling audition. The scenario of his hunting trip with his Middle-America "Sex and the City girls" made me churn in my seat with the tension of Bruno/Cohen's precarious safety in this mixed company, and also with a personal recognition of the type of personality those hunters represent. The wonderment of Cohen's approach is in using his outrageous characters as bate to expose the outrageous ignorance/destructiveness of "everyday" people. In that, many layers of social consequence can be gleaned, pondered and appreciated.... The scene of man-on-man love, and ensuing man-against-man hate, which proves the peak of incredulity for the viewer towards the end, leaves a lasting impression which is not easy to come by in the usual mainstream realm of PC laughs and reactionary disdain for riskier entertainment material.

Like the juxtaposition of Borat's hirsute body to Bruno's body-waxing, the dichotomy of this acute social commentary is simply a pure source of just plain body-shaking comedy that is triggered by one and the same outrageous on-screen acts. The mainstay of Bruno - let there be no misconception - is that of extreme sexual innuendo/demonstration, taken to mind-bending lengths to elicit response on screen, also pushing the viewer to the point of feeling it's gone beyond the point.... And yet your laughter distracts you from such over-analysis. That is the context in which I like to approach and enjoy Bruno; my mind can separate and process the messages and consequences, but the energy of the comedy is what buoys me as I return home to my own constructed bubble. This experience was undoubtedly elevated by my sharing it with a packed advance-screening audience, whose collective energy enhanced each electric reaction of shock and hilarity - just as being seated in the 2nd row from the screen 'enhanced' Bruno's thrusting dildo and talking penis. Yes, I said "talking penis". (It's doubtful a video rental in one's living room would result in the same transcendence. Indeed, I haven't watched Borat again since I saw it in the theatre three years ago.)

You either can't wait to see Bruno, or you don't; no critique can (or should) convince you further one way or the other. It's a visceral taste, not a moral one. If Bruno's teases make you giggle, then by all means feed, don't starve, that hole.

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