Borat Subsequent Moviefilm review: An audacious achievement by Sacha Baron Cohen, one of the bravest storytellers of our times
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Director - Jason Woliner
Cast - Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova
“Some scenes may not be suitable for minors,” Amazon India declares in a disclaimer before Borat Subsequent Moviefilm begins. Seconds later, another disclaimer — this one a part of the actual movie, but also fake — says that it is “unsuitable for children under the age of three.” I laughed both times, and Borat hadn’t even said ‘jagshemash’ yet.
Regardless of how the US presidential election turns out, Borat 2 is, along with another Sacha Baron Cohen film, The Trial of the Chicago 7, a final artistic blow to a man who may well be on his way out.
Watch the Borat Subsequent Moviefilm trailer here
Set 14 years after the events of the first film, Borat 2 was filmed in near secrecy, mostly during the coronavirus pandemic. While Sacha Baron Cohen had been up to his antics for several months, the first rumblings of a potential Borat sequel arrived just a few weeks ago, when he was spotted running around Los Angeles in full costume.
This is actually a part of the narrative. In the 14 years since the first film, in which Borat took an unassuming dump outside Trump Tower, the ‘number-four journalist in all of Kazakhstan’ has become world-famous. The same people that he was running after in 2006 are the ones running after him in 2020, just to say get a ‘niice’ selfie or two. It would appear that Borat, who was essentially a disguise to protect Baron Cohen’s identity, now needs a disguise of his own.
Just like the first film, the sequel is basically a collection of elaborate sketches with a whisper of a plot to tie them all together. It begins with the Kazakh ‘premier’ summoning Borat from the gulag where he’s spent over a decade doing hard time, and commanding him to return to the ‘US and A’ to deliver a present to Vice President Mike Pence. The fictional Premier Nazarbayev believes that the friendly gesture could help Kazakhstan regain its lost pride, and find an ally in the Trump administration.
And so, Borat takes a 22-day voyage across the world and lands on the shores of Texas, bang in the middle of a pandemic and with an election looming.
This is an audacious film, from one of the most courageous storytellers of our times — in one scene, he barges into a hotel lobby dressed like a Klan member. In another, a suicidal Borat decides to visit a synagogue and ‘wait for the next mass shooting’.
For many years, Baron Cohen’s brand of nihilistic humour remained an acquired taste. I remember wondering if he qualified for police protection after his show, Who is America?. But the years have not only wrinkled his face (perhaps he ran out of gypsy tears?) but they’ve also, believe it or not, given him a soul. He used to be driven by a desire to provoke, but now, it’s almost as if he wants to protect.
In Borat 2, the same cartoonish character who once said that women have smaller brains than men is sent on a journey across America with his 15-year-old daughter. The mission: to present her as a bride (and peace offering) to Mike Pence. After spending weeks with her on the road, however, the prospect of sending his daughter away (‘like Melania’) to live with a rich white man, stirs something within the recesses of his heart.
But not before Baron Cohen can use the added female influence as an excuse to talk about abortion rights. In one of the film’s best segments — vignettes, if we’re being all European about it — Borat relents and buys his daughter a cupcake with a decorative baby figurine on top of it. She wolfs it down, figurine and all. A concerned Borat takes her to an anti-abortion clinic, where he strongly implies to the pastor counselling them that he, Borat, is responsible for ‘the baby in my daughter’s stomach’. And this isn’t even as far as he’s willing to go.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the Rudy Giuliani incident, but I’m not going to go into detail. Screengrabs of the scene are being fervently circulated on social media, unwittingly made into a political tool to chisel away at Republican pride. I would’ve preferred experiencing the scene as it unfolded, but despite knowing what happens, it’s a stunning few minutes of cinema. I’m sure a bunch of trickery went into cutting it together, but if what the scene suggests is true, then this might be Baron Cohen’s crowning achievement. It is an indisputable fact, you must remember, that Giuliani called the police afterwards.
Tom Cruise risks his life by jumping out of planes and whatnot, but Sacha Baron Cohen does it by infiltrating a white power rally swarming by gun-toting rednecks, with a bulletproof vest under his dungarees. Just in case.