People over the age of 30 might remember the release of “Borat.” For the following year or two, impressions of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kazakh journalist character were everywhere, from cubicles to dorm rooms. The film had a certain novelty. Trick interviews and hidden camera pranks existed, but they didn’t have the original’s scathing commentary on American society. With a year like 2020, Cohen found a perfect opportunity to continue that criticism with his surprise sequel — “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.”
Following the release of his first movie in 2006, Borat Sagdiyev is imprisoned in his home country of Kazakhstan. After 14 years, Kazakhstan’s Premier releases him on a mission to improve the country’s tattered relations with the United States. During his journey, Borat encounters many different U.S. citizens as well as his estranged daughter. The film is mostly made of unscripted scenes with unsuspecting non-actors, within a framework of other scripted scenes.
It has to be noted just how amazing it is that this film was made in secret. Cohen and his Borat character are well-known to much of the American populace. This had been filmed from late 2019 to August 2020, and nothing surfaced aside from some unsubstantiated rumors. The surprise of the COVID-19 pandemic during the filming period even worked its way into the story of the film. It’s such a crazy production process that, with constant entertainment media coverage, just isn’t seen anymore.
Cohen’s ability to keep in character and improvise every line shows just how committed he is to his craft. There’s no way Cohen can know what these random people are going to say, but he’s always ready with a witty response. Maria Bakalova, a Hollywood newcomer, proves her improvisational abilities as well. Her role as Borat’s daughter, Tutar, is a welcome addition and complements Cohen’s performance perfectly.
The most surprising thing about “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” was the heart and emotion developed throughout the movie. The plot of the original existed solely as a means to loosely connect the various interviews and pranks that Cohen conducted. With the addition of Tutar, the sequel creates a sweet father-daughter relationship around a great feminist message. It’s more than just a crude satire this time
Make no mistake, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm doesn’t shy away from the absurd and unorthodox humor of the first film. Borat visits CPAC, a debutante ball and a plastic surgeon, among others. The reactions he gets from bystanders or interviewees continue to be priceless. The best, and simultaneously the worst, parts are still whenever the unknowing citizens dig their own graves by saying something potentially homophobic or racist. It shows just how much our society still needs to change.
Unfortunately, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” doesn’t feel as timeless as the first film. Aside from the occasional reference to the Bush presidency, the original Borat is just as relevant now as it was then. It examined how things like racism and sexism continue to permeate our country. The sequel pokes fun at more timely topics, like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration. The satire is funny now, but won’t be as funny in another 14 years.
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” could not have come out at a better time. This year has been filled with volatile politics and a pandemic that just won’t end. The film won’t make you forget about these things, but it provides some much needed comic relief to an otherwise quite dismal year.
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