Sunday, August 2, 2009

Funkyzeit mit Brüno and Tobi

On a whim and against our better judgment, Tobi and I went to see Brüno, the widely panned, sexually explicit and thoroughly offensive gay mockumentary.

We loved it. Go figure.

I went to this movie prepared to be bored and offended but was neither. I think it helped that I never saw Sacha Baron Cohen's previous film Borat. The schtick is pretty much the same in both films, and it's not something that you would necessarily want to see twice. It also helped that I had read fairly terrible reviews. Somehow we have a tendency to judge a movie relative to our expectations rather than on an absolute scale.

So, with those disclaimers let me say why I think this is a funny, subversive but ultimately harmless piece of fluff.

The central character, Brüno, is a ridiculous cartoon, not an actual person. He's like the roles in Wilde's ultrafunny Importance of Being Earnest, as largely drawn as Lady Bracknell. No one tries to understand Lady Bracknell's back story; she's just too absurd for that. Similarly, Brüno is best seen as a vehicle for jokes and nothing else. Lack of realistic characterization is not necessarily a fault; Wilde's Earnest, packed as it is with unbelievable characters, is just about the funniest script in existence.

Brüno is the distilled essence of every offensive gay stereotype you can imagine. He's the absurd projection of bigoted fears. In a way he's a Rorschach ink blot. Those who are uncomfortable with gay people, and who buy into the character, will find their prejudices amply confirmed. Yet, the film makes it clear in subtle and not so subtle ways that the fears themselves are the subject of parody, not gay people.

Like almost all good satire, no one is safe in Brüno. It's not only about homophobia (although the interview with the odious Paul Cameron was worth the price of admission). Overall, I found it surprisingly gentle. It's not particularly mean spirited, just silly.

I do understand that Brüno is not for everyone. It is sexually explicit. It does use offensive gay stereotypes for comedic effect. Brüno does in fact proposition Ron Paul. However, if you do decide to see this film and go with your sense of the absurd primed and ready for action, you might be pleasantly surprised, as I was.