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August 3, 2009 | by  | in Film |
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How do I review Brüno? What can I say about this film? Do I dare engage in a critique of its homosexual stereotyping? Should I suggest it is a brave work which does everything traditional definitions of great art should—confronting us and making us think? It’s difficult to know where to begin. Brüno has already provoked strong reactions and polarised audiences to the degree that it seems impossible not to take sides. So, by this rationale, what am I supposed to say? Can I please sit on the fence? Can I just review it as a comedy, in which a penis talked to me and the main character engaged in simulated sex with the ghost of Milli Vanilli?

If you look at Brüno as a comedy, one has to praise Cohen for being incredibly brazen yet again. It is an astonishing performance when you consider some of his improvisations (if they are improvisations), most notably in his quip to a ‘go straight’ counsellor about his “blow job lips”. His commitment to character, and focus are as devoted as a great method performance. Cohen pushes scenes way past the threshold, and his ability to think on the spot is outstanding. To realise in most cases he only had one chance to do it adds further weight to his laudable commitment. He may well be amongst the most brilliant comic performers of our time.

But Brüno is more than a comedy. It’s a social exposé of American society and its inherent prejudices and eccentricities, right? Well, if that is the case I’ve seen it all before in about a dozen Louis Theroux episodes. While Theroux maintains a degree of objectivity, generally allowing people to make themselves look stupid (albeit through his sometimes loaded questions), Brüno is far more provocative, to a level I at times found unacceptable. As Kim Newman has pointed out, some people’s reactions are plausible responses to Brüno’s unfair sideswipes.

Despite my reservations I must admit Brüno reached a climax that was nothing short of spectacular. An utterly remarkable stunt, which I don’t believe Cohen can possibly top. This leaves me wondering whether he will do it again? Can he create another absurd character, infiltrate America and make fools of its oblivious citizens? Probably. But do I really want to see it? Not really. Cohen’s caricatures do a dangerous thing, they caricature prejudice and I feel about as comfortable condoning this as I would if Brüno was trying to attack me with two dildos.

Directed by Larry Charles
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer,
Jeff Schaffer, and Peter Baynham
With Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten, Clifford Bañagale, Chigozie Orukwowu and Josh Meyers

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