Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Movie Review: Borat.

Whom does this mockumentary mock?

The short answer: everyone.

For starters, Borat offers himself up to ridicule as a haplessly clueless "outsider". Whether he makes politically incorrect comments (about women's brain size, for example) or defies social conventions (carrying a bag of excrement from the bathroom to a society dinner table, for instance), Borat makes himself an easy target.

However, if you look closer, Borat mocks everyone else too. And, he does so coast-to-coast, as he travels from Manhattan to Hollywood on his quest to learn from America. New Yorkers, southerners, feminisits, Pentecostals, frat boys, car/Hummer salesmen, antique/civil war relic dealers, rodeo fans, humor coaches, local tv news guys, and many others, do not escape his satirical cannon.

I marveled at the genius of Sacha Baron Cohen's ability to maintain his character in the most absurd scenarios, and to draw out the absurdities in his interview subjects/victims. Like Michael Moore's documentary-style films--Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, just enough "rope" is provided to the targets to hang themselves--willingly.

However, despite the similarities between Cohen and Moore's (and Stephen Colbert's) techniques, Moore does so with an overarching purpose or theme. Moore mocks for a reason--his political agendas. I couldn't discern Cohen's. He seems to mock for the sake of mockery. It's undeniably funny, but it's hollow fun. It's deconstruction on parade. Nihilism.

I can't give this movie a grade because it defies such glib glosses. Some have said it has to be seen to be believed. That's true.

However, there is a scene in this movie that goes so far over the proverbial line, as Doug McIntyre has said, you couldn't find the line with the Hubbell telescope. You've been warned. Only for the hearty.