Sacha Baron Cohen Satirizes an America Divided in ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’
Almost a decade and a half after he first came to the U.S. for the purpose of learning and bringing glory to his own country, Kazakhstan, journalist Borat Sagdiyev, one of the alter egos of Sacha Baron Cohen, returns to the States for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.” This time, he brings along his daughter, 15-year-old Tuta (played by 24-year-old Bulgarian actor Maria Bakalova), and together they infiltrate high society, right-wing political rallies and conventions, and even Trump’s inner circle.
A lot has changed since 2006, not only for the United States, but also for Borat personally, as his last mission did not bring him glory, but made him and Kazakhstan a laughingstock. Upon his return, he was locked up by his government, and now, in 2020, he is given a chance to redeem himself. The president of Kazakhstan uses him to make nice with President “McDonald” Trump, sending him back to the States with a prized monkey to present as a gift. However, plans change after Tutar smuggles herself into the crate carrying the monkey and eats him, and Borat is instead ordered to give away the girl herself to “pussy hound” Mike Pence.
As one can imagine, it’s not as easy for Borat to blend in after the last film. After a 22-day journey via boat, he arrives in Galveston, Texas, where he is instantly recognized on the streets. In order for him to get close to unsuspecting Americans, he is forced to don an array of disguises. In the beginning, he gets into the usual Borat shenanigans, such as searching for porn on the internet in front of an uncomfortable phone salesman.
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” benefits from better character development and a plot that is more political than the previous film, which followed Borat as he tried to win the hand of actress Pamela Anderson. The stakes rise after Tutar arrives and Borat is ordered to give her as a gift, or else face execution. For the few unfamiliar with the character of Broat, he is presented as being from a country that is not only anti-Semitic, but also extremely misogynistic. In this fictional Kazakhstan, women sleep in cages, are not allowed to drive or run businesses, and girls are warned away from masturbation by being told there are teeth in their vaginas, so it’s no surprise that Tutar is less than prepared to be “presented.” So Borat sets about making her beauty appointments, even visiting a plastic surgeon.
As his recognizability now limits what Baron Cohen’s can get away with, Bakalova is left to carry several scenes on her own, and she proves to be more than up for the challenge. Early on, we learn that Tutar’s role model is Melania Trump, a woman from a “shithole country” whose marriage to Donald has been presented to her like a fairytale. The viewer cannot help but root for her as Bakalova takes her from a pathetic object of ridicule to a young woman with hopes and dreams who aspires to drive, have a career, and win her father’s love.
Just like in the previous film, Baron Cohen seems to effortlessly expose people’s biases, and we meet a plethora of “deplorables,” such as the baker who has no objection to writing an anti-Sementic message on a cake, the unscrupulous plastic surgeon, the Republican woman who gives a speech claiming unwed mothers are ruining the country, and the pastor at a crisis pregnancy center who, led to believe that Borat has impregnated his minor daughter, seems more concerned with stopping an abortion than calling the police. Filming continues throughout the lockdown, and Borat ends up sheltering with a pair of right-wingers who spout conspiracy theories about Obama and the Clintons.
“Boart Subsequent Moviefilm” culminates with Tutar, who now dreams of being a journalist like her father, snagging an interview with Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York who is now Trump’s attorney. It’s embarrassing to watch as she plays to the man’s vanity during the interview in a hotel suite, and positively cringeworthy to see what transpires when she invites him into the bedroom. It’s not clear if he goes as far as to masturbate in front of Tutar, as Borat cuts in too quickly, but no doubt is left in the viewer’s mind that his intentions were far from professional, and it’s far to say that if Borat can compromise a man so close to the POTUS, one can only imagine what a Russian agent or another enemy of democracy could do.
Fortunately, we meet some good people here that help restore our faith in humanity somewhat, such as the babysitter who offers advice to Tutar and calls out Borat, and the Holocaust survivor who takes the time to chat with him. Although one cannot help but think that some of these people whom Borat and Tutar meet were clued in on the joke, the film reminds us that the country is divided as ever, and a title card in the end crest urges us to vote.
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” begins streaming Oct. 23 on Amazon Prime Video.