James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Clay // Film Critic
BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
For apparent reasons, America is a far cry from where we were in 2006 when the original BORAT movie became a cultural phenomenon. It was a crude and utterly unapologetic exercise to uncover the willful entitlement that plagues North America from coast to coast. The vessel to send us this message was/is a plucky reporter from Kazakstan named Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) rocking an oversized gray suit and iconic mustache.
While levity might not be the best approach when articulating the years 2016-2020, and no matter which side of the aisle you fall upon, life has been filled with stress, anger, and sadness. Enters Sacha Baron Cohen and Amazon Studios who announced that they created a new cross country road trip titled BORAT: SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM, “VERY NICE!”
You may be asking the question of how Baron Cohen would be able to pull this off when his fame has grown far beyond the reach of alternative comedy fans; he’s an epidemic to problematic people across our country. Hellbent on gleefully exposing the systemic issues that make America “great” he and director Jason Woliner made a film about seeking progress and overcoming ignorance. BORAT: SUBSEQUENT MOVIE film justifies its existence by moving the needle towards perhaps finding the sweet spot between current events and comedy. Woliner and Baron Cohen are able to create a time capsule that leads up to the seemingly climatic 2020 election while dealing directly with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Borat has become persona non grata, has lost his reporting job to a chimpanzee, and now has a daughter aptly named Sandra Jessica Parker Sagdiyev (Maria Bakalova). His goal to regain favor is to sell his daughter to Vice President Mike Pence for reasons that become clear as you watch the film.
However audiences who are averse to Baron Cohen’s anarchistic comedy may not be so charmed as he learns how to navigate PornHub on a smartphone, or charges into Conservative Political Action Conference ready to offer his daughter to Pence in full Trump garb, but it sure is satisfying to see MAGA supporters up in arms at something so acutely ridiculous.
For being a piece of gonzo filmmaking, Baron Cohen has recognized that by having heart, he can succeed to greater heights than other hidden camera film exercises could have imagined. Strangely enough, it seems that the character of Borat has progressed far beyond a mean-spirited way to expose the American public’s problematic behavior.
Baron Cohen is assured as he has ever been in character and finds a myriad of ways to curve the audience and his marks so he doesn’t get busted in his signature suit. Most of the classic Borat action comes in cut-away scenes that piece the narrative together. Some moments will shock and quite possibly have one very prominent political figure of Trump’s camp completely canceled.
The crux of the film rests in Borat’s relationship with Sandra, in her own misguided way, is well on her way to becoming a Western woman in the modern age. By visiting conservative women’s groups and plastic surgeons she soon discovers that there is more to life than pleasing her father’s wishes. Bakalova’s skills pair quite well with the maestro as their characters both morph into new versions of the same people, just making different kinds of mistakes.
In its own absurdly crude way BORAT: SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM has its heart in the right place. BORAT makes a nice companion piece to David Byrne’s brilliant concert film AMERICAN UTOPIA that celebrates America as a joyous metaphorical concept while Borat himself makes a mockery of how morally bankrupt this country is as a literal institution.
As Borat once again acts as our guide, he begins a path to learning and making a conscious effort to adapt to his surroundings with his boundless curiosity. Sure the pranks are there as he makes a fool out of unsuspecting people, but the genius of Baron Cohen is he’s seamlessly changing as well. If Borat is a surrogate for how lost Americans feel in 2020, it seems that change is possible; there’s some lost concept called tolerance, which comes in a final call to action to Go Vote!
BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM will be available October 23 on Amazon Prime.