Well this was a shock. The character of Borat was thought to be dead, and for good reason; how can you trick someone when everybody knows who you are? Plus, what would it have to say? Didn’t it say everything it needed to say in the first movie?
So it was a genuine shock when they announced this film, not that it was being done, but that it had already been completed and was being released in a few weeks time. I love a surprise release, and they haven’t come more surprising than this.
What’s a bigger surprise is how easy it was for him to get people to say some really stupid shit. The character may be from Kazakhstan but the film is very reminiscent of Russia, in that it’s funny, until it very suddenly definitely isn’t. And it happens very quickly when he goes into a shop and asks whether one of the gas they sell will kill gypsys. The shop assistant replies that he needs to get the bigger one.
It gets much worse, with a scene late on in the film where he gets a festival full of people to sing that journalists should be executed, after choosing between that or injecting them with COVID. Oh yeah, this film mentions COVID, and brilliantly. COVID is the first pandemic in the age of mass misinformation, and the stuff that people say in this is shocking, but also not unexpected. Maybe that’s a weakness. A few years ago, someone saying that the leader of the opposition in America created a disease in China and then unleashed it on the world just to take down the president would seem insane. Today it’s actually US government policy. So how can it be possible to shock and surprise when stupidity and hate is the default setting of half the population?
Enter Rudy Giuliani, a guy who led New York through the aftermath of 9/11, and has since destroyed his reputation with, well just his general personality, although launching a fundraiser and asking guests to donate $9.11 probably didn’t help. In this film it’s not so much what he says, but what he does, he goes to a hotel room of young woman who is interviewing him, lays on her bed, and then he, well he fluffs himself. It’s incredibly creepy and is filmed in almost haunting silence, like you’re watching a slow-motion disaster. This was huge news, in that it made the actual news. On the downside this meant you knew it was going to happen, on the upside it means that there’s a slight chance (very slight) that Borat decided the election, weird.
What’s also weird is that this actually has a good plot(brilliant segue there, fucking seamless). It acknowledges the first film, and focuses on Borat living in shame and Kazakhstan being ashamed of him (which is very based in reality considering their reaction to the film), which causes him to have to go in disguise for this, travelling US with his daughter. Oh yeah, he has a daughter (Tutar, played expertly by Maria Bakalova), and truth be told she provides some of the most shocking moments. Not only the aforementioned Rudy moment, but she swallows a plastic baby from top of a cupcake and goes to get an abortion, saying her dad put it inside her. To which the doctor tries to talk her out of having an abortion because America.
She also provides a lot of the emotional weight. Particularly when a babysitter (Jeanise Jones), is genuinely shocked and tries her best to help Tutar. She’s not scripted, her initial behaviour was to help this poor woman, that’s her genuine human nature, and it’s wonderful to see it in this film. Obviously people agree, as they raised $150,000 for her. I think that’s thee important message of this film, and I don’t know where it was intentional or not. But when rich white guys are dicks to people, there will always be others there who are looking to help. Whether it’s a black babysitter who is concerned for Tutar, a young white girl who calls her own father out on being a creepy bastard, there will always be kindness in the world, you just need to find it. There’s a moment where Borat goes to commit suicide by hugging a Jew (it makes sense in context) and ends up having a beautiful conversation with a holocaust survivor. Keep in mind he enters the synagogue dressed in what can only be described as “Jewface”, dressed head to toe in hate. And this woman, who has seen what this hate leads to, she approaches him without hesitation and gives him a hug. It’s stunningly beautiful and incredibly heartwarming. Sacha Baron Cohen obviously thought the same as he actually broke character and told her that he was just playing a character.
The most beautiful moment comes at the very end, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s Sacha Baron Cohen as himself, or as Borat. He tells Tutar (or Maria), “you were amazing”. It makes sense in the film to be said by Borat, but he says it in Hebrew, which makes me think it was Cohen. It’s…..it’s beautiful. And weirdly, that’s what I’ll remember from this film, the love. And I NEVER thought I’d say that coming into this.