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Saturday 10 October 2009

Review: Should you go to Bruno?

Posted in: Movies
By Matt Akersten - 6th July 2009

Bruno (Sacha Baron Cohen) at his Paris premiere

"Some backbiting guys in ze gayvorld say Bruno's a bad spokesman for us - but you don't hear ze astronaut community bitching about Buzz Lightyear!" - Bruno.

He's right. The 'Boycott Bruno' emails started trickling in to last week, after we featured one of Bruno's bizarre stunts in our International News section. "I'm encouraging my friends to boycott Bruno and have started a Facebook group where people are encouraged to post their reasons for not liking the film," one of them began. "I'm not saying ban the film, and I'm not saying don't laugh at it. I'm saying, if you don't like it don't see it and let your friends know why." Good advice.

Bruno with child. Bless!
The trailer for Sacha Baron Cohen's new movie 'came out' many months ago, and yes, I remember cringing. How far would he go, I wondered, and is he a good look for our community? Would there really be people out there dumb enough to watch the film and think 'yeah, that's totally what all gay people are like!'?

I was lucky enough to be invited to one of those MySpace screenings (people still use MySpace apparently!) tonight to experience the film with a lot of teens and twenty-somethings - certainly its target market.

After enjoying Borat a couple of years ago, I kinda knew what to expect. If you didn't enjoy that film, do yourself a huge favour and bypass Bruno - you'll just anger yourself, and we don't want you to split your lederhosen.

Bruno is not just a collection of uncomfortable stunts. Like in Borat, there is something of a plot. Our hero gets fired from his Austrian TV channel after a runway disaster, so he packs up his mesh singlets, thongs and 'goocklesack' and heads to America to make it famous. Along the way he gets dumped, adopts a baby, defends himself on a TV talkshow, goes to a swinger's party, tries in vain to turn straight, and… well, I won't spoil the rest.

Baron Cohen counts on getting homophobic responses to Bruno's crazy stunts. Many of the shocked faces we see are very funny, but there are also (be warned!) several extreme examples of bigotry. The joke is truly on those 'arschenhallers'! Some of the film must have been staged with actors, but it appears that not all of it was - many interviews seemed genuine (those truly awful ex-gay Church guys, for example), and the rednecked reactions to the climactic cage-fight scene were all-too real (as someone on our Forum reliably informs us: "It turns out the audience had been told they were being filmed at the event and had already signed waivers before the faked fight took place... suckers!!!")

Well, the crowd on the MySpace screening night lapped it up, with constant laughter and surprised 'aaaaahhh's' and 'eeeeerrrr's' at the film's most sensational moments. And there were several frustrated 'grrrrrs' and sharp intakes of breath from the crowd after certain homophobic retorts! Great stuff… nice to see the crowd reacting the same way I do about small-minded people. As the film's distributor Universal Pictures assures us: "By placing himself in radical and risky situations, Sacha Baron Cohen forces both the people Bruno meets and the audience itself to challenge their own stereotypes, preconceptions and discomforts." Yup, big time.

So is uber-gay Austrian fashionista Bruno uber-offensive to gay men? I can only speak for myself… but I don't think so. Bruno, I loved you, let's get gay married in California and go raise a family in an underground dungeon somewhere.

Bruno is in cinemas NZ-wide from this Thursday 8 July. It's official trailer is shown on his very gay 'MeinSpace' page.

Matt Akersten - 6th July 2009

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