I don’t cry at movies often, especially not hilarious ones.
My friend Erin was going to come into town tonight, but the freak 4:00 pm darkness and sleet storm postponed her drive from Madison. As I left the office I decided this was the worst weather I had ever driven in and that a cold, snowy evening was perfect for a solo movie night.
I drove straight to Mayfair, bought some unnecessary tea, grabbed a bite and headed to see “Borat: Cultural Learnings of American For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”
I had heard plenty of superlatives about this movie, and surprisingly, it lived up to all of them. I laughed almost the whole way through, so hard at one point that I created tears. I have never seen anything so irreverant, ridiculous and hysterical in my whole life. (If you haven’t read/heard about the premise of this movie, please read here, but don’t read too much, you’ll wreck it for yourself).
Every time a new “subject” came into view, a collective cringe rippled through the theater, everyone knowing something completely inappropriate was coming. I’m trying to think of my favorite part to share with you, but its truly hard to pick just one.
I think it may have been the scene where Borat dines with three wealthy, middle-aged perfectly mannered Southern couples: After asking if one of the men is married to the woman at his left with the “erotically formed body,” the man replies that his wife is, in fact, another woman across the table. Borat proceeds to comment that men in Kazakhstan “would be crazy” for the two women at either side of him, but, referring to the third woman, says, “that one, not so much.”
It’s cruel and awkward and disturbing to a degree that you don’t know how to react other than to laugh. The reactions of everyone at the table are of shock but not quite disbelief. There are so many levels of cultural misunderstanding going on at once its mind-boggling.
Numerous times during the film the happy-go-lucky Borat makes his signature racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks in conversation with generally average American-seeming subjects. In many cases the American responds in a way that reveals their own feelings of prejudice.
This is a new kind of comedy. It shocks but it also awes. It is neither delightful nor cute. It breaks through your comfort zone. You feel sorry for the duped subjects, but you also laugh at them. You wonder how Cohen and crew could have scored the interviews and appearances in the movie.
Then, you wonder at how you react in such situations. Perhaps this is the lingering lesson of the movie. Put in the most socially awkward and uncomfortable situation, would my inner prejudices be revealed?