Directed by Jason Woliner
Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern; Based on a story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Nina Pedrad
Based on a character created by Sacha Baron Cohen
Music by Erran Baron Cohen; Cinematography by Luke Geissbuhler; Film Editing by Craig Alpert, Michael Giambra, James Thomas
With Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat Sagdiyev), Maria Bakalova (Tutar Sagdiyev)
The whole title of this new film is Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The full title of the 2006 film, in case you forgot, is Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
Borat (the impossibly hilarious Sacha Baron Cohen) is back in the USA! This time he’s here with his daughter (a terrific Maria Bakalova) who he seeks to marry off to Vice President Michael Pence. But before Borat actually makes the attempt to bring her to Pence at an actual political event at which Pence is appearing, there are all sorts of shenanigans, including a visit to a debutante ball in which Borat seeks to present his daughter to society.
To go into the metaphysics of Borat’s world is a little complicated, but somehow it sets him up for another trip to the USA, this time with his daughter in tow. Of course, women in Borat’s Kazakhstan are treated like cattle, so despite Borat’s genuine affection for his daughter, the trip begins with her being locked in a cage. Gradually, as they make their way through the US in their strange trailer which somehow simulates a barnyard, Borat and his daughter become quite a team and more bonded than either of them would have expected.
There are endless adventures. Some of them, like the debutante ball in the South, use hired actors, but some of them take place at real events. Apparently, Sacha Baron Cohen, after the fact, expressed serious dismay and concern for his survival after showing up at a Trump rally where people had guns in tow. Cohen winds up leading a typically bizarre song onstage and it’s clear that the people at the rally don’t quite get the whole thing.
The scene at the debutante ball involves a father and daughter dance which is, to say the least, an unexpectedly revealing account of a fertility rite. As with Borat washing his face in a toilet bowl in the original Borat film, one cannot quite believe what one is seeing.
Perhaps the most hysterical scene is when Borat and his daughter show up at a doctor’s office after she has an accident swallowing a small token on a cupcake Borat has bought for her. The doctor is a right to lifer and the dialogue which ensues between the three of them is carefully written, beautifully acted, and totally hilarious.
There is a little something akin to Huckleberry Finn in Borat’s sensibility. He’s been reared in a crude society and his mode of interpreting the world is completely grounded in it. But there is a sweet humanism in him that refuses to be quashed, and it’s brought out especially in his relationship with his daughter. Gradually, as does Huck when he thinks about and comes on his own to see the injustices done to Jim, Borat, in a much more knavish and demented way, comes to see something about women’s rights through the dealings with his daughter during this bizarre American odyssey.
There is so much that is tasteless and appalling in this film that one cannot begin to take any of it seriously, which is part of Baron Cohen’s point. In fact, the world does take a lot of this seriously, and it is especially in the non-staged scenes that this becomes apparent.
If one were to watch just five minutes of the film, seeing the sequence in which Rudolph Giuliani appears would be worth the price of admission. That this film alone, based on just that, did not influence the election of November 2020 is astounding.
There is a scene in which Borat goes to a cake shop and asks the woman behind the counter to inscribe a cake with an undeniably anti-Semitic phrase. She does so without blinking and then asks is that all? Were it not so true, it would be funny. Part of what makes Baron Cohen’s humor so intense is exactly this – one never knows where the extrapolations and hyperbole end and where real life begins. Frighteningly, that intensity of appalling hyperbole blends so closely into the real that one can only laugh through one’s tears, and one is never sure whether the tears are from the hyperbole, from the appalling reality, or some strange perfect psycho-sociological storm created by both.
– BADMan (aka Charles Munitz)