Thursday, July 23, 2009


In Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen's demented journey through homophobia land (NO relation to Neverland) in America, Bruno Gehard (pronounced "gayhard") is a gay Austrian fashion reporter who wants to become a celebrity. Along the road to his epiphany that he will need (or thinks he needs) to become straight to be accepted and find the fame and recognition he desires, Bruno gets former presidential candidate Ron Paul into a room on the pretext of doing an interview--then drops his pants. Paul storms out calling Bruno a "queer." (Not the best pub if he ever wants to make another run at the top spot.)

Bruno sits down with a self-styled "gay converter," one of those dudes who's gonna turn you straight with a little old time religion. But we can see in his eyes--and not surprisingly--that the guy is confused about his own sexuality.

Then our hero gets some basic self-defense tips from an Alabama karate instructor--to defend himself against the gays he says are "attacking" him. Bruno plays the role of the attacker--flailing dildos as weapons--in one of the films silliest and funniest scenes.

He goes on a camping trip with some authentic redneck hunters, and tries to slip into one of their tents--naked--in the middle of the night, with the predictable "git out mah face" reaction.

The common denominator is that all of the aforementioned were blindsided--not in on the joke-- and taking this flaming caricature that Cohen has created at face value, though you wonder how some of them could be that naive. It's truly amazing how Cohen manages to initially gain the confidence and trust of these various types, and how far some of them will allow his hijinks to go before pushing the panic button.

Oh yeah, and Bruno illegally adopts an African baby (with a sarcastic aside to Brangelina and Madonna) and names him "O.J."--which he thinks is a traditional African name.

Borat--Cohen's dismantling of political correctness in America--seemed outrageous at the time, but in Bruno he has upped the ante. I was surprised at how far he was able to push the envelope and still get away with an R, and not an NC-17 rating, which is what this film probably deserves. There's full frontal in-your-face male nudity, and plenty of gross suggestiveness that leaves nothing to the imagination. And while I'm not above snickering at this kind of stuff--there's a bit of the cringe factor involved too, as I've never been a huge fan of the total gross-out brand of comedy that is Cohen's stock in trade. For one thing, any adolescent male could have come up with a lot of this stuff. On the other hand--comedy that retains a bit of subtlety and imagination requires an innate intuitiveness that not everyone possesses.

When Bruno goes to hang out at a down south swingers party, it appears that he has met his match. There's actual sex going on, (with certain body parts hazed out on the screen) and the group doesn't seem to even notice him that much until he starts acting squirrely and then they have to set him "straight" as to what their sexual preferences are.

A few of the bits in Bruno feel staged, like when this blonde dominatrix with the worst looking fake boobs I've ever seen grabs him, rips his clothes off, and gives him a nasty belt whipping.
Staged or not, it looked and sounded like it HURT...

Cohen does accomplish one thing in Bruno, and that's to show that most of us take ourselves way too seriously. The more little boxes built of prejudice and fear that we try to hide in, the easier it is for someone like Sacha Baron Cohen to come along and make us look small-minded and foolish. For that reason alone, Bruno is an important film.

GRADE: B+ if you like gross-out... C- if you don't.