Thursday, February 17, 2022

Very Nice...Not

Films: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

This is not gBorat Subsequent Moviefilm for a couple of weeks so I can finally finish off the 2020 Oscars, but it’s a film I’ve been dreading. That seems like a strange word to use for a 96-minute comedy, but it’s accurate. The reason for that is simple: I don't like embarrassment comedy. It's something that never sits well with me. I don’t mind it when I feel like it’s someone who deserves it and there’s plenty of that in Borat’s crosshairs, but there are a lot of innocent bystanders caught in the crosshairs as well.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm gives us our titular hero, Borat Margaret Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) suffering for his crimes in the previous movie, bringing shame to the nation of Kazakhstan. With the rise of Trumpism, though, it is decided that Borat can have a second chance, specifically because Trump has (at the time of filming) cozied up with dictators around the world with the exception of Kazakhstan’s president. Borat is given the task of giving Johnny the Monkey as a gift to Mike Pence as a way to befriend Trump.

Low and behold, when Borat meets up with Johnny the Monkey in the U.S., the monkey is dead, having been eaten by Tutar (Maria Bakalova), Borat’s 15-year-old daughter. Knowing that he will be killed if he goes home empty handed, Borat resolves instead to give Tutar to Pence as a gift and as a way to ingratiate the country with Trump.

What follows is a lot of embarrassing cultural clashes, and that is entirely the point of the movie. There are moments where Borat Subsequent Moviefilm punches up on people, or at the very least is clearly punching at someone who deserves it. When Tutar eats a cupcake designed for a baby shower and accidentally eats the baby, we’re given some god-tier trolling of a religious center that actively prevents abortions. This happens a few other times in the film as well. He spends a couple of days with some QAnon believers who say, on camera that they think Hilary Clinton and Obama literally drink the blood of children. Again, can’t wait for people like this to get some comeuppance.

But not everyone is guilty. Borat, deciding that his daughter needs breast implants to make her suitable, goes off to find the money for surgery. He leaves Tutar with a baby siter (Jeanise Jones), who teaches her about the massive number of lies she has been told. Tutar’s reaction (and Borat’s) to her new freedom is what fuels the third act.

It's the treatment of people like Jeanise Jones that I find frustrating. Jones is a genuinely decent person who is clearly concerned for the abusive environment that Tutar has been raised in. She was told that she was appearing in a documentary about a young woman being groomed for an older man. Her reaction to this is kind and caring, wanting to get this young girl away from what would be a terrible fate, and because she didn’t know this was going to be a spoof, she ends up being kind of the butt of a few jokes. She’s being scammed here even though she is acing compassionately. It feels dirty.

A similar thing happens when Borat, who is aggressively anti-Semitic as a character (Cohen is himself Jewish) goes to a synagogue as a way to kill himself. He has a conversation with a couple of lovely old women, one of whom died before the film released. The story is that, for her, Cohen broke character (and he dedicated the film to her), but it still comes across as cruel. He talked to someone who was a Holocaust victim about Holocaust denial. That just seems wrong. That’s not punching down and it’s not attacking someone who is doing something terrible. It just feels cruel.

Maria Bakalova was nominated in a supporting role and she deserved it. But I struggled with the rest of this.

Why to watch Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Maria Bakalova deserves your love.
Why not to watch: As the kids say, it’s cringe.


  1. I actually liked the film and thought it was funny. Especially because of Maria Bakalova as she just stole the film from everyone. I was really uncomfortable with the presence of Rudy Giuliani as he just came off even worse in that film than everyone else. The fact that he had no problem wanting to have sex with a reporter who claimed to be 15 is just revolting. I hope he goes to prison one of these days and gets spit-roasted over there.

    1. Maria Bakalova is the best part of this movie, absolutely. But I really struggle with the nature of embarrassment as entertainment, so I struggled with this.

      I avoided talking about Giuliani above because fuck that guy.

  2. If Borat had done this on his own, it would not have worked. Almost every stunt he does on his own fails or, yeah, is "cringy" in a bad way. Maria Bakalova on the other hand was a star. Phenomenal, even.
    I actually liked the part with Jeanise Jones. She is scammed yes, but provoked into being the heart of the movie. She is standing up to say that these things are wrong and outrageous. She is set up to do the right thing where everybody else are set up to do the wrong thing and it worked for me. It is my impression he wanted to do the same thing for the old ladies in the synagogue, but that did not turn out well at all.

    1. Oh, I think you're right. Bakalova earned the Oscar nomination for this without question.

      I just feel bad when good people get screwed with like this. Jeanise Jones seems like a genuinely good person and she had every opportunity to be shitty and she never was. Why even risk making her look a fool?