Funny ha ha and funny queer
Sacha Baron Cohen tests boundaries once again, this time with flamboyantly gay Brüno
For better or worse, Sacha Baron Cohen knows how to get a rise out of people. No pun intended.
Twelve years ago, the English Cohen created the characters of Ali G and Borat for his sketch-comedy bits on British television. Ali G turned into Da Ali G Show—and later the movie Borat, which thrilled audiences in 2006. It was on Da Ali G Show that another character was born—Brüno—and he promised to rile people up even more than the former’s stereotypical Middle Easterner in post-9/11 America. Why? Brüno is gay. Like, über, in-your-face gay. And it’s no secret that a lot of Americans just haven’t come to terms with homosexuality.
Enter Brüno, a flamboyant Austrian fashion TV show host who sets out to make it in Hollywood, using time-tested celebrity-making methods made famous by the likes of Bono, E! and Madonna. Naturally, that means trying to bring peace to the Middle East, interviewing celebrities and adopting a child from Africa.
All in all, Brüno is quite naïve. But it’s this sweet side that provides balance for his over-the-top antics. Some of the funniest scenes don’t actually center around his gayness. Rather, they push the limits of celebrities (he gets Paula Abdul to sit on a Mexican) and Hollywood parents (Brüno: “Is your baby fine with lit phosphorous?” Parent: “Yes. He loves it.”)
But the homosexual theme is never far behind and can’t be overlooked or forgotten in this film. Brüno is relentless. He tests his subjects’—and the audience’s—limits of tolerance with flashy shots of his package, plenty of male nudity and man-on-man action. He goes to extremes to see just how much go-go-boots-wearing, sashaying, lisping, talking-about-dildos people can handle. And he has a point, even if it’s a bit much for even the most tolerant of audiences.
The brilliance of Brüno is that he immerses himself fully in his character and tackles topics ranging from general homophobia to the specifics of gay marriage and parenting. He keeps pushing things to find out how much is too much.
A good portion of the film takes place in Alabama, smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt. Here he tries to become straight, visiting various pastors and partaking in decidedly straight activities like hunting.
Brüno, like Borat before him, is not subtle. That’s part of the charm, even if the formula is more or less the same. More so than Borat, though, Brüno is not for everyone. It is graphic. It is in-your-face. And for those who are either already homophobic or on the fence, it could actually push them over and reinforce those feelings. For the rest of us, it may be over the top, but it sure is eye-opening to see how some of our fellow Americans react to this openly gay stereotype.
Plus, the movie is just plain funny.