Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, may have not had the same level of surprise as the first film. But it is still nonetheless wholly effective in its message and enhanced greatly with the inclusion of Maria Bakalova.
In Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. (A great title for getting a word count up by the way). We return to find Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) finishing his time in the gulag for his previous film. Yet due to his popularity in America is tasked with presenting a bribe to Mike Pence. But, he has to wear costumes due to being too well known (a clever conceit) throughout the country. Unbeknownst to him, his estranged daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova) has joined him on his return.
There were doubts that Borat would have the legs in it to warrant a second go-around, but Cohen manages to make it work and then some. Cohen is again outstanding here and we see that he has not lost his touch since Is This America?. This is especially the case when it comes to disarming subjects with his charm. Unbelievably Cohen had to wear a bulletproof jacket in some scenes, thus how crazy the world and American has gotten. Known for his ability to stay in character Cohen takes it to new levels as he stays with people in quarantine for 5 days (how much they are in on the film is unknown, however). Some moments are of course extreme and almost downright dangerous. He deserves the plaudits for this film, but he isn’t the only one.
As made obvious throughout the opening act and the news more will be spoken about breakout star Maria Bakalova. The inclusion of a daughter for Borat is utterly brilliant. As several pranks open themselves up when we have a woman being involved. Yet you need to have the right person to play this role. With the level of commitment Bakalova has to the role is unparalleled by most performances out there today.
Occasionally, she is even stealing scenes from Cohen, such is her confidence in the character. Simple interactions with her Tutar work best here, especially as she bounces off almost everyone so well. Similar to how we fell for the Borat character over a decade ago. One such moment being when Borat wants to dress up Tutar for Pence. Scenes in the dress store are simple and when she eats lipstick thinking it is a food. Cohen knows he has to copy her moves and it causes his performance to be far stronger because of it.
Additionally, it is her character’s arc throughout that is most surprising about the film. If you know where she is during the Giuliani interview. You will wonder how on earth she gets to that point in the film’s opening. In all honesty, I would be astonished if she did not receive a Golden Globe nomination here for her performance. In fact she would be in my five for nomination for supporting actress at the Academy Awards. That is how strong she is here.
It is a bold, brave and empowering performance from the 24-year-old. There feels as if there are more risks in her performance as no one knows who she is. With Cohen, especially when he is dressed as Borat. You get the idea that some people may be in on the act. Yet, Bakalova is immune to this and it is a stroke of genius to include her. She is one to watch for the future, to be further convinced by her performance. Check her out in Bulgarian film Transgression (2018).
The difference between the sequel and the first Borat is the fact that America has changed in the past 14 years. Cohen is seemingly quite easily to find meaner subjects to film and prank, gone is the veil that it is difficult to find the ugly and racist aspects of our societies. They are proudly puffing out their chests for all to see. So Cohen’s tactics have to change in accordance with it. Perhaps this is where Borat Subsequent Moviefilm struggles a tad. We are not shocked at what we find here (until the finale). When Cohen asks “What colour is best for a racist family?” not only is the questioned accepted, it is answered with a moment of thought. We are more seeing a tragedy before our eyes and for those who are not American. Do not believe that the same pranks would not work in your country either.
Additionally, we are given with so many scenes that it does wear you down a tad, but with two exceptional characters. Each telling a different story this was always going to be a difficult film to juggle. For the most part, it pays off to great success, though the existence of Who Is America? Possibly hurts the film due to its freshness.
Most likely knowing that, while there is a tonne of humorous moments throughout the film, we are given a few sombre and poignant moments too. Tutar’s babysitter, giving her life advice is truly heartwarming (whether or not Jeansie is a real person or actor). The moment in the car is wonderful. We get a break from the bizarre and see what America really is, or what it really should be.
Equally, Borat’s conversation about two Holocaust survivors has a few chuckles but is most touching. In an America that is seeing a growing number of people state that they believe that the Holocaust did not happen. Cohen is older and thus a tad more sentimental it seems as when we as the audience realise where this could potentially go.
We are warmed to see that it stays sweet and as respectful as possible. This and moments with Tutar as the film progresses allows us to see a change in his character. From someone who was once cold to his daughter, is now warm and forms a tremendous connection. It is a not so subtle hint to people who believe in certain ideals that we see across the film. A hint that there is hope and there is the chance that if they want to, that they can change. The world is full of second chances and the ability to evolve and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm does that with spades. Despite everything, there is hope.
In the end, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a political satire that works far better than you would expect from a character that has already graced the world. Is it as shockingly brilliant as the original? No, but it is also so much more than that and Cohen. With a tremendous assist from Bakalova have a film that has a wider message than you would think. A brilliant film.
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