Borat Subsequent Moviefilm review: Sacha Baron Cohen is sharp as ever

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Courtesy of Amazon Studios /

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a worthy follow-up to an iconic piece of comedy filmmaking, and Sacha Baron Cohen is no less potent in this razor-sharp sequel.

In our darkest hour, in our greatest need, when all hope seems lost — hark! What’s that, riding over the horizon? It’s Sacha Baron Cohen, clad in an ill-fitting blue suit, sporting a wonky accent, and ready to deliver the world Borat Subsequent Moviefilm just in time to throw the American political landscape into chaos.

It’s not every day viewers need to avoid national news in order to not have a movie spoiled for them, but when it comes to Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, it wears its political relevancy like a badge of pride. As well it should. Although trying to top the original Borat is an unenviable task, Sacha Baron Cohen (with the help of newcomer Maria Bakalova) is able to deliver a sequel just as unflinching as the original, and with an odd amount of heart.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm follows the same old Borat we know and love, this time as he adventures to America to give a gift to Vice President Mike Pence. Initially, Borat’s plan is to give Pence a pet monkey, but things go awry, and after discovering his 15-year-old daughter (Maria Bakalova), Tutar, has stowed away, he opts to present her as the gift to Pence instead. As the film progresses, though, Tutar begins to question the gender roles she’s been taught and defies her father’s wishes — throwing both of their paths into chaos.

Of course, it would be impossible to talk about Borat without talking about the political controversy it’s incited/embroiled itself in — which is, of course, by Baron Cohen’s design. What was so refreshing about the original Borat was its unparalleled ability to dole out scalding criticism of American politics while also seamlessly weaving it in the fabric of a mockumentary-style comedy. Thankfully, Baron Cohen hasn’t lost his magic. Subsequent Moviefilm has all the social and political critique of the original.

White feminism and conservative ideologies are the big targets this time around — one of the film’s most memorable encounters is when Borat takes Tutar to an abortion clinic because she’ accidentally swallowed a plastic baby. Despite the fact that Borat implies he was the one who put the baby in his daughter, the doctor still urges Tutar not to get an abortion. It would seem ludicrous, and on Borat and Tutar’s part it is, but the fact that the doctor seems entirely serious about a 15 year-old girl keeping the baby he believes was fathered by her own dad is mind-numbingly horrifying.

The other big target, white, #GirlBoss-style feminism, is tackled in a more spread-out way, chronicled in Tutar’s journey from frumpy, unibrowed foreigner to conventionally attractive, ample-bosomed, blonde-haired young woman. She gets lessons from southern women about how to be the perfect, submissive, meek woman. And while it is fun to laugh at the backward ideology, it can also be difficult to watch. The American political and social climate has gotten so bad that the kind of shocking content interviewees say/do in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is no longer noteworthy — just a sad reminder of the reality we live in.

As such, the shock value of the original film doesn’t work quite as well here, but that’s okay, because Tutar and Borat’s emotional narrative is there to supplement the rest of the film’s lackings. We didn’t go into Borat Subsequent Moviefilm expecting a touching depiction of a father-daughter relationship struggling with societal norms and their unfamiliarity with each other, but it’s what we got. And boy, does the narrative work.

The strength of the Tutar/Borat relationship relies in the chemistry between Sacha Baron Cohen, and Maria Bakalova. Baron Cohen, as always, is spot-on as Borat — but it’s Bakalova who really steals the show here. Baron Cohen has Borat in his blood, but Bakalova dives headfirst into the role of Tutar, and matches him beat for beat. It’s incredible to see her keep perfect pace with such an established character, even outshining him at times.

The knowledge that she hasn’t had any other major acting credits makes the film’s climax (no, uh, pun intended) all the more impressive on her part. It takes major guts and commitment to pull the wool over Rudy Giuliani’s eyes in the way she and Baron Cohen managed to.

When it comes down to it, there’s not much we can say about Borat Subsequent Moviefilthat you won’t have already heard on national news. It’s a razor-sharp and unflinching sequel to an iconic comedy classic, emboldened by the strength of Maria Bakalova’s performance as Tutar and Sacha Baron Cohen’s willingness to go where few others will.

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Have you seen Borat Subsequent Moviefilm? What’s your favorite political commentary? Sound off in the comments below.