So, I saw Brüno. And yes, I even paid to see it in the theater. And I laughed. I laughed hard. I was shocked and appalled. Laughed again. Cringed and winced. Laughed again. Shook my head in horror. Laughed.
I had seen Sascha Baron Cohen’s Borat a bit after the fact, after all the media overexposure, and after so many of the catchphrases had entered the pop culture lexicon. And I still thought it was funny. Disturbing, yes, but funny. So in a way, I was prepared for the style of humor that was to be expected in Brüno. But, honestly? I didn’t think he would, no… that he could go that far in a movie opening in thousands of multiplexes across the heartland. Holy. Smokes.
Brüno (Cohen) has been touted as being “very gay”. What does that mean? He likes gay sex way more than other men who like gay sex? No. Come on. People are fumbling for words with this character. What Brüno is is a flaming, ridiculously over-the-top flamboyant fashionista queen (and you certainly don’t have to be “very gay” to accomplish that!). But just to remind you that Brüno is indeed gay, this movie depicts the most graphic and suggestive and visually outrageous visions of gay sex that I have ever, EVER seen in a mainstream movie. And (thank god) it is played for laughs (and definitely for screams).
The vague plot involves Brüno getting kicked out of the inner circle of the fashion-forward in his native Austria (due to the wardrobe malfunction of his all-velcro suit), so he goes to the United States to become famous. What Cohen is skewering in his latest satire, it turns out, it not really the public’s tolerance (or lack thereof) towards The Gays, he is actually ripping apart the frothing desire to be famous and loved by any means (aka, The American Way).
He first attempts traditional fame by creating an ill-fated celebrity-interviewing TV show (which is shown to an unlucky media test group that looks like their eyeballs are going to explode at the vision of Brüno’s penis tip exclaiming, “Brüno!”… which is kind of hard to explain, now that I see it written). Brüno goes to the Middle East and attempts to get kidnapped by terrorists (which is actually a rather terrifying scene… were these guys in on the joke? It sure didn’t look like it!). And on his way back, he even “adopts” an African baby for an accessory, and guests on a Dallas talk show (with a fully African-American audience) as a proud single parent who dresses his kid in T-shirts that say “Gayby”. (Honestly, this portion made me cringe rather than laugh, as Cohen literally plays directly to middle America’s absolutely worst fears and prejudices about gay adoption.)
But if Brüno can’t be famous, maybe at least he can be straight… So he goes hunting with some good old boys in the South (one of my favorite scenes), goes to a straight swingers’ party where he gets a deserved good lashing from a huge-breasted dominatrix, and talks to an earnest and visibly uncomfortable gay conversion therapist (he shocks the poor guy who is trying to turn him straight by noting that the fellow has “a mouth made for blow jobs”).
As offensive as Brüno is, the film is at least offensive across the board. His character is rather guileless, despite the fact that he had no problem miming giving Milli Vanilli’s ghost a graphic blow job (a scene that made me scream). Is it offensive to gays? Well, some parts yes, like I mentioned earlier. But it is equal parts (if not more) offensive to heterosexuals, as Brüno parades a bunch of parents willing to offer their toddlers for photo shoots that would dress them as Nazis or Jesus.
Cohen is an equal opportunity offender… and if you can’t take this kind of humor (and honestly, I barely barely could), certainly stay away from Brüno and his ilk. But if you like to see America’s political correctness (and uptight conservativeness) skewered, you are more than likely to find a lot of laughs (and many screams of horror) in this flick.
DVD & BLU-RAY NOTES
As expected, the DVD and Blu-Ray releases of Brüno include a healthy heaping of extended scenes and extra scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor. For the curious, the LaToya Jackson interview is here, and it is relatively benign. She is one of the unfortunate celebs (as well as Pete Rose in another scene) that sits for the interview on the back of a Mexican laborer. She is giggly throughout, and it the only subject to actually eat sushi off the naked hairy man before fleeing. There is a nice interview with Hollywood agent Lloyd Robinson who proves he’s a good sport, and was honestly clueless about the whole joke until he drove by a Brüno movie billboard. There is also feature commentary by director Larry Charles and Sacha Baron Cohen (out of character!) describing the hijinks involved in getting the film made. Some stories are so verbose (and interesting!) they literally pause the movie and have pop-ups of extra photos or footage from behind-the-scenes for elaboration.