Hubby and I went to the theatre on Saturday and saw "Brüno". I wrote a speech about it, which went over really well this morning. Despite everything I said about this movie - - it truly is the most vulgar movie I've ever seen in a theatre, and I sure wouldn't take my mom to it....but...well...here's my speech:
This past weekend, Sacha Baron Cohen’s “mockumentary” Bruno took first place in the box office earnings, grossing nearly 55 million worldwide.If you didn’t get to the cinema this weekend, I’ll be honest and tell you that this movie may not be for everyone. I admit I got a little nervous when the ticket taker in the lobby tore my ticket, he directed me “try to enjoy the movie”. During the opening scenes of Bruno, which can only be described as disturbing, graphic, crude, and explicit, some members of the audience left.
AND YET, I urge you to go see this movie, with your mind fully open…… but perhaps for safety, with your eyes half closed. It may help you to know that director Larry Charles, who also directed Borat, wrote several of the funniest and darkest Seinfeld episodes, so you can expect great heaping spoonfuls of satire of political and social issues. I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about a few other things you may expect from Bruno.
Pre-release the media let us believe that the premise of this movie was somewhere on the continuum between gay-bashing, and pro-gay-rights. But here is the true gist of the story: Bruno is a flamboyantly gay, Austrian fashionisto, who, in order to recover from the fallout of a disastrous incident at a Milan fashion show, losing his television host gig on “Funkyzeit mit Bruno”, and getting dumped by his pygmy lover Diesel, decides to pursue his goal of achieving fame.
But the true messages of the movie are several, and deal with serious world issues.
The film shines a flood of light on areas of society, asking us to first laugh at the absurdity of, for example, homophobia, and then take a breath and say “yeah, this is problematic”.
Bruno is first and foremost a shallow character. His only motivation to do what is good or right is personal gain. All he wants is to be the most famous Austrian since Hitler. And. according to a study from the Pew Research Centre, this isn’t an unlikely or unusual goal. The study revealed that 51% of 18- to 25-year-olds surveyed said being famous is their generation's most important or second-most-important life goal.
And so, to make it in the limelight, Bruno first focuses on the physical. Appearances are EVERYTHING. – a point driven home as the audience is invited to observe treatment at an anal bleaching salon, and snacks being served to Paula Abdul on a naked Mexican day labourer. But when his efforts to break into traditional fame-making film and television industries fail, Bruno tries other methods of winning world renown.
He travels to the Middle East, intending to become a celebrity by bringing peace to Israel and Palestine with a song and a spontaneous agreement between the factions that hummus is good stuff. Naturally, an agreement on the “goodness” of Hammas was not reached. Israeli political consultant and writer Yossi Alpher was one of the participants in Bruno’s peace talks. He wrote about Cohen in his “Jewish Daily Forward” newspaper column saying: “he is exploiting our tragic and painful conflict in the most cynical and deceptive manner. I doubt he’ll give us anything in return”
But I disagree with Alpher. I think Cohen made a statement of startling clarity: that the West has no business involving themselves in Middle East conflict until the West has a far better and deeper understanding of the languages, religions, histories, economics, and cultures of the region.
Peacemaking in the Middle East clearly didn’t go well, however, Bruno-- ever in touch with what is trendy--decides to get involved in charitable work in order to achieve his dreams of fame. He consults with identical twin PR girls Nicole and Suzie DeFosset to find out that Darfur is a "hot" charity option, though they were not aware of what Darfive might be.
You can check the twins’ website: www.duetpr.com and I’m glad I did, because I learned something new. You see, until seeing this movie, it never occurred to me that there were people who actually advised on philanthropy as a means to “create comprehensive and highly effective campaigns that deliver significant, measureable results” …..not to solving tragic conditions of poverty, war, hunger, and disease…..but to, and I quote from the website: “to maintain an enviable reputation within media and celebrity circles.”
On his way back to Hollywood, Bruno makes a side trip to Africa. And taking his cues from Brangelina and Madonna, decides to swap an I-pod for an African baby in order to gain celebrity. Next, Bruno takes his show on the road, and appears on “Today with Richard Bey”—a Jerry Springer type talk show -- to discuss his new role as a gay, single parent. It was very interesting to watch the outraged reaction of the entirely African American audience. One audience member accused Bruno of adopting the baby as a fashion accessory: And this caused me to pause and consider my conflicted personal feelings on international adoptions.
And yes, there are plenty of timely swipes at homophobia and gay rights. In one scene, Bruno and his faithful companion Lutz attempt to get married in California, where the ruling on gay marriage has been recently reversed.
One of the last and most memorable scenes of the movie takes place eight months after Bruno undegoes homosexual conversion therapy, and seeks fame as “Straight Dave” a caged mixed-martial arts promoter in Arkansas.
The crowd was absolutley wild when Bruno and Lutz begin duking it out inside the cage, but ….well, their enthusiasm quickly changed to horrified outrage when Bruno and Lutz began making out. What an interesting statement on the human condition - - we love to see violence, but are disgusted by sex and love. Luckily for Bruno and Lutz – the cage locked the crowd out of the ring, as well as locking them in - - the crowd was dangerously angry.
Besides homophobia, Western involvement in Middle East, the superficiality of fame, fashion, and celebrity, and hipocrisy of humanitarian aid, the movie Bruno also lampoons the Christian right, consumerism, racism, war-mongering, politics, and the shallowness of popular culture.
To concisely summarize the central message I hope I’ve brought to you this morning,
I’d like to quote Rolling Stone writer Peter Travers:
Cohen is on to something essential about our debased culture. His satire is Swiftian — crude, profane, fearless in using ridicule to bite hypocrisy on the ass. Like Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Brüno defies you not to see yourself in its funhouse mirror. And then dares you to laugh it off
Still not convinced that Bruno is a movie you should see? Seriously – don’t you WANT to see a crazy, gay, Austrian who isn’t the Governor of California? (yes, I stole this from the David Letterman show)