I am a great admirer of Sacha Baron Cohen. I really respect his ability to use outrageous comedy to make social commentary. By playing outrageous characters he somehow gets ordinary people to do and say unbelievable things. For instance in his newest film Bruno Cohen is able to get the parents of toddlers to agree to get their children to lose ten pounds before a photo shoot, dress up as Nazi's, and operate heavy machinery. My mouth was agape and not because of what Cohen was doing but because of what ordinary people were doing or willing to do. Though, to be fair Cohen does some outrageous things as well, but he is playing a character.
That character is Bruno an Austrian fashion guru who longs to be the most famous pop star from Austria since Hitler (his words not mine). To that end he attempts to first become a film and T.V. star and when that fails he tries to bring peace to the world. Really the plot of this mockumentary is string together his on camera stunts.
Though the plot is a little biting. Essentially the story is about somebody moving to L.A. to achieve celebrity status no matter what the cost to their identity. When Bruno attempts to achieve celebrity status by doing charity work he approaches to women who run a charity PR firm. The women appear to be in their mid-twenties and are both wearing cheetah print shirts. They offer him advice on which charities are "in" and get him good press. They both seem to think that Darfur is somewhere near Iraq. This scene's shallowness made me shudder as I imagined how often this scene plays out in earnest in reality.
Some of the stunts are hilarious, many of them shocking, and in some cases disturbing. This is where Cohen really shows that he has commitment to the character. He puts himself in some very graphic and disturbing situations and to be honest it became a little off putting. I respect his commitment but there were times in which people on screen were doing such graphic things it took me out of the movie. As a result the film never really "hooked me," I always felts like I was simply observing them film. All the content whether it was graphic in nature or revealing something ugly in a person left me feeling a little...gross.
I imagine it might have been a little difficult to bring Bruno to theaters after Cohen's last creation, Borat got the big screen treatment (all of Cohen's characters were featured on Da Ali G Show). The premise of that film was more or less the same except Borat was a foreign journalist from Kazakhstan. While watching Bruno I didn't feel the freshness that I felt while watching Borat. In that film Cohen did and said some shocking things but he was able to create a more realized story. Most people were unaware of Borat, so he was able to interact with more people and create a richer story. The odd thing was that even though Borat was rather outrageous it also had some moments of genuine heart. I didn't get that same feeling with Bruno and I feel like it was because Cohen had to go so far over the line that it was hard to relate to the character.
Oddly enough I found the graphic sexual material less offensive than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I expected that material in this film, but it had no place in the kid's movie about robots. In this film it was disturbing but it sort of served a purpose in the grander scheme of things. In Transformers it was gratuitous and disturbing for a whole other reason.
So yes, I do respect the creator of Bruno, but I can't say that I enjoyed the film. I laughed and fairly hard at times, but that was it. At the end of the day I knew what he was trying to say about society I just didn't feel connected to how he went about saying it. I really hope that Cohen follows his tradition of retiring his characters after the films so he can move on to new things. I am fairly excited to see what he will be doing next.