Thursday, November 16, 2006

What did you think of Borat?

Who's asking: Anna Bragdon, China, ME

Yesterday afternoon I knocked off early and drove to Brunswick to catch the twilight show of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan with the Lechners. We were the youngest people in the theater by a decent margin, and one lady got up and left the theater halfway through the movie.

We were a little surprised that only one person left. The movie could not possibly be any more offensive; it is gratuitously disgusting, and culminates in a nude man-on-man wrestling scene that I would give a lot to wipe from my memory.

That said, it's also the funniest, most subversive, most brilliant movie I've seen in years, and should be required viewing for every voting-age American.

It's a movie that answers once and for all the question, "Why does the rest of the world hate us so much?" Well, it's because too many of us are smug, ignorant, mean and incurious about anything outside our immediate orbit. Almost everyone who fell victim to Borat is accusing him of setting them up, but he's more like Alan Arkin in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: a communications-impaired audience to the careless, the unkind and the self-absorbed.

The movie includes only one set piece that I felt was unfair to Borat's targets; it really is too much to expect a group of people to respond with equanimity to someone who comes to the dinner table with a napkin full of excrement.

Did I enjoy it? Hard to say. I laughed at parts, but I also squirmed, and it made me ashamed at points of not only my Americanness, but my humanity. Despite that -- or maybe because of it -- I'll probably see it again.

Sorry today's post is so late. My head is far, far down, as I'm really hoping to take a big chunk of next week off. Lots of things to move out the door between now and then.


Tom Ehrenfeld said...

Ummm...I saw Borat the day it opened, in a theater smack dab in the middle of Harvard Square (I had to go because I took my daughter and her friend, who were technically underage--so I got to sit next to THEM during the film. Ahem.) Every seat was filled. It was clear that the audience came ready to love this film. I can't remember attending another movie where the audience was so primed to enjoy the spectacle--it was as if we were at the taping of a tv show where someone had already warmed up the crowd.

I liked the movie. And laughed, hard, at some points--especially the naked wrestling scene which had the comic genius not to stop when it should have but went on and on and on which was funnier and funnier.

But....I dunno. To me this was a case of the trailer having almost all the choice bits of the movie. Perhaps I was too uncomfortable with the squirmy-ness to enjoy it as much as I wanted to (the first time I saw Something Wild I really didn't like the movie, not realizing that I just felt too creeped out to see its comic genius--each time I've seen it again I've appreciated and enjoyed it all the more.) But overall I felt that the movie was neither as funny, nor as satiric, as advertised.

Funny is ultimately a personal judgement--so I won't make an argument about the humor content. Again, I thought the movie was funny--yes. I laughed really hard at times. So it worked. But it wasn't, in my opinion, as funny as great comic films. For me.

But I really don't feel that the movie had a deep message about America. It's easy to make fun of nut-bag idiot pinheads (once you find them.) I mean, is it all that socially clever to piss of a trio of feminists? There was a good line in there, yes. But again, overall I just felt like this was ultimately a "safe" type of social critique--kind of like George Clooney's take on McCarthyism, where we are basically told a comforting message about the bad guys. Just because I tend to agree with some of the critique didn't make it a hugely insightful film for me. Again, I liked it--but not as much, I guess, as expected.

I just gotta see it again--and probably will. Sorry to ramble. Just trying to get my thoughts clear on this.

AnswerGirl said...

You're right that the bad behavior might not have been uniquely American -- although some things, like the NY subway and the frat boys in the RV, did strike me that way.

It's angry humor, not silly humor, and I admit I prefer the silly stuff. I too feel the need to spend more time figuring out what I think about it, but the fact that it has everyone talking says a lot about its power.