Review

Brüno Review

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Jul 02, 2009 | 2:41pm EDT

WHAT IT’S ABOUT?

Full frontal male nudity raucous swingers and Paula Abdul are three of the many elements contributing to the ridiculous and utterly compelling Bruno  Sacha Baron Cohen’s return to form after a three year post-Borat hiatus.

At 83 minutes Bruno is a mad-dash trek from Paris fashion week to the Hollywood hills to the Middle East Africa the southern United States and back again. In his fame-seeking efforts gay Austrian journalist Bruno completely freaks out a non-bondage-gear-friendly hotel staff gets chased down an Israeli street by incensed Hasidic Jews and nearly starts a riot by getting physical with his assistant Lutz in front of the rough-and-tumble crowd at a cage-fighting match. Whether the movie pisses you off grosses you out or makes you double over laughing Baron Cohen’s bravery must be commended.

WHO’S IN IT?

Baron Cohen as Bruno  Gustaf Hammarsten as Bruno's enraptured assistant Lutz and Clifford Banagale as butt boy Diesel. Abdul Ron Paul  Harrison Ford and a cast of unaware antagonists from across the United States Europe and the Middle East also make cameos.

A scene featuring LaToya Jackson was cut from the film three hours before its Los Angeles premiere  which was held on the same day as Michael Jackson’s death.

WHAT’S GOOD?

If Bruno is digested as it’s sold – flamboyant fashionista comes to the United States to fulfill aspirations of fame and manifests hilarity through encounters with unassuming citizens – then the movie is indeed an insightful glimpse into the often uncomfortable collective unconscious of prejudice and its many tangential issues.

But.

Bruno distributor Universal insists the film's action is authentic and have not discussed the filmmaking process. Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles have been similarly mum. However it’s been suggested that the film is a series of staged vignettes in which actors portray common folk for laughs. If so Bruno maintains its hilarity but loses the reality component that renders the satire so fascinating. Still the number of Bruno-related lawsuits Universal is already grappling with suggest many people in the film aren’t thrilled to be there. Certainly politician Ron Paul was unaware of the situation when he ended up in a hotel room with the disrobed protagonist. The former presidential candidate grumbles that Bruno is a “queer” after fleeing the scene.

WHAT’S BAD?

The vain wimpy animal print thong wearing Bruno is a sashaying gay stereotype in heels. The nebulous homophobia issue has made the movie a point of contention in the gay community. However this and other mini scandals (see Bruno’s MTV Movie Awards appearance with Eminem) have contributed to the buzz growing as the film’s July 10th release date approaches. Whatever preconceptions the audience brings to the theater Bruno truly must be seen to be believed.

FAVORITE SCENE?

A tensely funny scene involves Bruno casting a photo shoot starring his newly adopted African baby. Bruno interviews earnest stage parents angling to have their young children cast in the project. A particular conversation goes something like this:

Bruno: “How much does your daughter weigh?”

Mother: “30 pounds.”

“Can she lose 10 pounds in the next week?”

“Yeah. I’d have to do whatever I could.”

“And if she doesn’t get the weight off would you be willing to have her undergo liposuction?”

“... Yes. If that’s what it takes to get her cast.”

This squirmy moment and the hundreds of others like it (said photo shoot yields shots of Bruno’s “Gayby” hanging from a cross) contribute to a wholly fascinating cringe-inducing and painfully hilarious glimpse into the underbelly of American homophobia celebrity tolerance etc. The Cambridge-educated Cohen’s talent for culling insight from the ever preposterous scenarios into which he thrusts his oblivious queen allows the film like Borat and Da Ali G Show before it to operate on dual levels of silly often vulgar slapstick and sly social commentary.

NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?

See it now. Multiplex.

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