Movie Review | Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm
Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan...
Movie summary: Follow-up film to the 2006 comedy centering on the real-life adventures of a fictional Kazakh television journalist named Borat. (IMDb)
Whereas Borat (no, I'm not using it's full title) felt very much like it was trying to be what's come to be known as a 'mockumentary', Subsequent Moviefilm only uses the set-up as a framing device for the story and feels better for it, even if the end result is a movie that is more like a conventional comedy than the original.
Another reason for that is that this movie is far more narratively-driven, with a greater focus on story and characters than the original, only using the often-weird Americans they encounter as a backdrop or in supporting roles. It did make for a strange transition going straight from one movie to the next, but ultimately a welcome one.
Part of the reason to focus on characters was the success of the first film making Sacha Baron Cohen's character of Borat too famous to go many places openly. As the picture up top shows, there are in fact scenes early on of him having to pretend he's not Borat, meaning we end up with Cohen in costume as Borat who is in disguise himself.
This meant bringing in another character who turns out to be Borat's 'non-male son', Tutar, played by Maria Bakalova. She is a revelation in the role and almost steals the movie out from underneath Cohen with how good she is in the role and they effectively end up as co-leads by the end of the movie, with Cohen clearly delighted at her work too, on the verge of breaking character late on.
The story starts with Borat in a labour camp for having ruined Kazakhstan's international reputation thanks to the success of the first movie, but Premier Nazarbayev (Dani Popescu) gives him a mission to redeem himself by delivering the sub-titular bribe to Mike Pence, who is referred to as a ladies' man by Borat because he can't be left alone with women...
It's a simple enough set-up, with Tutar sneaking along to join Borat in the States in place of said bribe and their travels across America to meet Pence, which will end with the now-infamous Rudy Giuliani interview. Tutar undergoes a radical character development as they travel, learning about the freedoms women have and standing up for herself.
There's a slightly iffy mis-step when her spoken English suddenly gets much, much better for no apparent reason other than the story really needing her to deliver certain lines, but it's a small quibble. Considering that's the only thing about her performance you can criticise (and part of the blame has to go on the script too), that just reinforces how good she is here.
But it's not just her performance as an individual that makes it so good, but the relationship between her and Cohen's Borat too. I felt that a lot of Borat was quite mean-spirited and that Cohen was often trying a little too hard to get a reaction from the people he encountered, but how the father-daughter relationship changes is genuinely very sweet and gives Subsequent Moviefilm more heart than the original.
There is one moment at a debutante ball that feels ripped right out of the first movie with the intention to deliberately provoke a reaction and is the weakest part of the movie for me, but that's the only scene that doesn't maintain the overall higher quality level. Everything else here is really, really good.
There are still scenes with shocking behaviour and language from some of the Americans encountered, with a baker willing to make an anti-Semitic cake; an also anti-Semitic doctor who admits on camera that he would 'sex attack' Tutar if her father wasn't present; and a pair of rednecks who blame the Clintons for COVID-19 and claim they drink the blood of children.
So, it's still a Borat movie after all. There are also jabs at Justin Trudeau, Facebook, Kevin Spacey, 'Karen's and more which are fun, even if none of these can quite match up to the first film's peaks. The closest Subsequent Moviefilm comes are when Cohen attends public events in character, although that may be due to being aware of them as they happened, rather than the movie doing anything special to set them up.
Outside of the evolving father-daughter relationship throughout, there are also a couple of other nice moments too, such as Tutar spending the day with a baby-sitter, Jeanise, who is just wonderful and has an amazing conversation with Tutar about who she could be. There's also two very nice older Jewish women who comfort Borat - although the greatest joy he receives is their confirmation that the Holocaust did happen. It's still a Borat movie after all.
I enjoyed Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm a lot more than the original, although I do have to repeat myself from the Borat review and say that I think it's because I saw the original well after what would've been outrageous when it was made had become mainstream by the time I watched it. This movie feels much more suited to 2020 and, thanks to the nicer moments, is the one I'd definitely prefer to watch again.
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm feels more like a conventional comedy than the first movie, but this makes it work better in today's world and is more enjoyable to watch from start to finish. It doesn't quite hit the highs of the first film, but is still very funny and Maria Bakalova deserves to be a star after her performance here.