True story: a week or so ago I am walking through my apartment complex when the obligatory early stage Alzheimer’s victim/tenant, a nice elderly woman who is constantly asking for someone named Richard, stops me and says to me, “You know, you look just like that actor.” Bewildered, but flattered because of my extreme vanity, I ask, “Which one?” She replies with excusable confusion, “You know, the one with a mustache, he is an actor but a comedian…his movie is all over the TV right now…” I had no clue what the fuck she was talking about, maybe Tom Selleck…or Geraldo? Then it hit me. Borat. Now, I’m no Adonis, but come on, Borat? I think I’m going to call adult protective services and have her taken away to a cozy institution out in the mountains somewhere.
Likeness or not — though curiously enough I am half Armenian and much Armenian is spoken by Borat in the film — I have been down with Sacha Baron Cohen’s unholy trinity of Ali G, Borat and Bruno for a minute now, and while I am happy that he is finally getting some major success off of his very cerebral/very low brow comedy, I am sad in a supercilious and pretentious way, feeling that my friends and I were there before the millions in box office draw and all the proletariat fanfare. I hear my co-workers quoting lines from the movie all day, and “Hi Five!” has already become a tired ad-lib, but the film itself is worth its weight in laughs and borderline criminal humor.
With its laborious, broken English title, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit of Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”, the film begins where Borat’s HBO skits never ventured, to “his” village in Kazakhstan. Cohen, an Orthodox Jew and Cambridge scholar, has the Slavic/Western Asian immigrant shtick down. Of course, he embellishes all of their quirks to absurdity, but if you were to stroll into your local Russian-Armenian grocers for some sketchy pastries with no nutritional facts printed on their packaging, and spoke with some male employees or customers there…well, you would understand all too well.
In Borat’s village, we finally meet his second (or third) wife, who certainly looks plow savvy, his sister, who is the sixth greatest prostitute in all of Kazakhstan (and whom he kisses on the mouth), and various livestock that live inside his run down shack with he and his family.
The premise for Borat’s inappropriate and perverse behavior, however, remains the same: he is sent by his television network to learn more about the American culture for a documentary. This scenario translates to boatloads of possibilities, as the character is completely ignorant of American customs, traditions, taboos and stance on matters like women’s rights, which for Borat are a complete farce. Aided by his pudgy comrade and able director, Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian), the pair reaches the new world, and begins wreaking havoc on the sensibilities and standards of our civilized nation.
Somewhere between a homosexual gathering where Borat naively allows a rubber fist to be inserted into his backdoor, and a southern hotel where Borat and Azamat have a disturbingly drawn out naked brawl, which leads them into a business conference of stiff collared insurance salesman to be roughed up by security, Borat falls in love with Pamela Anderson during a rerun of “Baywatch”. His passionate longing for the blonde beauty changes the original course set for their adventure, and they leave New York for a cross country journey in an ice cream truck. They also purchase a small bear in the interim, which roars at children who want to purchase ice cream, and defecates everywhere.
Like all of Cohen’s characters, Borat is used to turn our own prejudices and morals back onto us in the most hyperbolic ways, especially with all of the rampant, and many times jaw dropping anti-Semitism. For example, getting a redneck to openly say he would like to hang gays and then proceeding to sing the Kazakhstan national anthem at a rodeo, or, when he is at a Southern dinner, attempting to learn about proper etiquette, he brings his shit wrapped up in toilet paper after using the bathroom and not knowing what it was for, and then calling a black prostitute to be his date for the night. Not to mention when he shows the etiquette coach naked pictures of one of his teenage sons. Through it all, “Borat” is a smart piece of film that unabashedly dares to tread through all of the filth, but in the most innocent way.
Larry Charles (director) / Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer (screenplay)
CAST: Sacha Baron Cohen …. Borat Sagdiyev
Ken Davitian …. Azamat Bagatov
Luenell …. Luenell
Bob Barr …. Himself
Pamela Anderson …. Herself (uncredited)