Don't go see Brüno for a date, kids. The nearly empty theatreplatz at Edwards 9 in Bodo Saturday night would normally be a fine setting for a date night. But from the opening scene, the film is a total romantic buzz kill. Sacha Baron Cohen has taken a lot of shit for over-gaying his gay fashionista reporter character, but to consider Brüno as gay is a mistake.
Brüno plays a disgusting caricature of disembodied sexual perversion: from the stationary bicycle-driven dildo to the lost handcuff key in the hotel room, to the swingers who tell him they started fucking other couples on their honeymoon, to his own misshapen and misaligned body and face, Baron Cohen is taking the idealization of sexual extremes in our culture to task—gay, straight or indifferent.
The New York Times, of course, disagrees:
An early sequence that graphically shows Brüno and his lover exerting themselves in various positions and with the assistance of, among other things, a Champagne bottle, a fire extinguisher and a specially modified exercise machine, derives its humor less from the extremity of their practices than from the assumption that sex between men is inherently weird, gross and comical. The same sequence with a man and a woman — or for that matter, two women — would play, most likely on the Internet rather than in the multiplex, as inventive, moderately kinky pornography rather than as icky, gasp-inducing farce.
If Mr. Scott of the New York Times really believes that pouring champagne into glasses from a midget chick's ass would be considered inventive and kinky, as opposed to farce, he does not get out on enough date nights (I'm assuming NYT reviewer O.A. is a man, but could be wrong).
Once established as pure farce—in an early scene Brüno gets tangled up on the runway in a velcro suit, around the time of the champagne bottle in the butt stunt—viewers are free to laugh out loud, or snort out loud as I am guilty of (sorry Boise) and gawk at the sheer ballsy brilliance of Baron Cohen's comedy.
After a slow period of plot building, if you can call flying to Hollywood to become a superstar a "plot," there is an abrupt cut to a Baron Cohen hallmark: ambushing ridiculous public figures. Brüno decides to seduce Ron Paul and catch the hot action on camera, as a shortcut to stardom.
I'd say it took Rep. Paul a bit too long to catch on—he just keeps glancing at a newspaper in that hotel room as Brüno strips his clothes off. While Baron Cohen/Brüno's time trying to solve Mideast peace is a bit contrived and appears to me staged, his outing of a pair of Christian homosexual reformers provides much of the real social commentary of this film. If the sex scenes are farce, the visits to gay reform school illustrate Baron Cohen's political intentions toward gay issues, which is to mock homophobia, along with any other degree of hangup one might hold about sex and society.
Through his farce, through forcing us to watch the talking head of a penis, ostensibly Baron Cohen's, (how'd he do that), even through the film's R rating, the per capita number of hangups from which American's suffer are methodically being reduced.
So why did I go home feeling a bit queasy and turned off (not from the film, but from my inner libidoschnitzel)? Was I a victim of some latent homophobia and/or homoerotica that this film released? Was it the balls-to-the-wall portrayal of flesh as absurd? Was it my unease with the absolute hilarity of the film coupled with its clever and serious parts?
I really don't have an answer. But I'm thinking of putting something like Desperado back on the Netflix queue again.