Film on Fridays: Brüno ist everything I hoped it would be and moreJuly 10, 2009
I’ve been hearing awesome shit about Brüno for months. Getting thrown out of a military base in Alabama. Getting thrown of Austria. Setting up a fake wrestling event that turned into a gay make-out session, and then escaping the riotous, maddened crowd through tunnels built for that express purpose.
It was the latter that prompted me to buy tickets for the midnight showing.
A friend who was at the Metreon last night texted:
Bruno is everything I thought it would be
Oh, I disagree.
Thanks to David (as well as my own sick curiosity, I guess) I wasn’t nearly as appalled by the sight of Brüno’s “pygmy flight attendant lover” manning an exercise bike powering a thrusting dildo, or by Brüno jamming a champagne bottle up his lover’s ass and pouring bubbly into waiting glasses. But I have to say. It wasn’t what I was expecting.
Some minutes later, my feeble, feeble envelope got pushed all the way to the wall with a good two or three minutes of a penis waving back, forth, side to side, and then around and around before standing up straight and talking through its glans.
But my job isn’t to describe every little bit in Brüno that made me laugh so hard, the row in front of us was visibly freaked out. (In fact, this column isn’t even my job in the first place.) A movie can be shocking, but does it make it worth seeing? Even though its opening weekend sales are looking like they’ll be much higher than originally expected, critics have come together on RottenTomatoes to give Brüno a wince-worthy 53%.
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune writes:
The problem with Brüno comes in mistaking blatancy for comic gold.
And for bonus points, my favorite review, from the cultural pillar of the WSJ:
It’s an exercise in offensiveness, an exploration of over-the-topness and a gleeful working of both sides of the street. What brings Brüno down, though, is sinful behavior. Mr. Baron Cohen commits the cardinal sin of unfunniness.
Before the movie came out, I was annoyed by all the reviews that fixated on the meta-ness of the movie. Isn’t it obvious that the blatancy by itself isn’t a good joke? Isn’t it obvious that the main source of humor is from the people who really take it seriously? Isn’t it obvious that the all the best parts are watching other people squirm and squirm and squirm? And isn’t it obvious that if a critic complains about the crassness of the film, they’ve been taken in and they themselves have become the butt of the joke?
Why else would the craziest and most offensive montages be frontloaded at the beginning of the movie? Talking penises, for fuck’s sake. The moment you take it seriously– the moment you let it offend you– the joke is lost on you. Don’t get it? Then don’t bother seeing the rest of it, ya Philistines. In a way, it’s a litmus test, meant to clear the unworthy out of the theater.
This all seems fairly obvious to us, the 4chan generation, who were bombarded fairly early on with everything from goatse.cx to Anonymous. Spend enough time on the internet, and your trolling-detectors will become so finely tuned that you’ll even begin to suspect entirely serious enterprises of being massive jokes. As it turns out, it’s mostly old, computer-illiterate, overly-serious geezers who review movies.
There is one criticism that I do think is valid:
Tom Maurstad of the Dallas Morning News writes:
Even at 82 minutes, Brüno feels stretched-out with stitched-together filler.
I’ll grant that there is a lot more scripted filler than you are led to believe from the trailers.
You get the impression that it was really hard to get as much quality reaction footage as they were hoping for. Hence the movie is only 82 minutes long.
The scripted bits aren’t really worth seeing. They’re what string the movie along, but I feel like I could have watched the movie sans scripted and still come away with the same impression.
On the other hand, the unscripted bits are good. They are really really good. The standard of funny is ridiculously high. And if you think a photoshop of a baby getting crucified by other babies dressed in Roman costume isn’t funny– well, we’ve been over this.
And to be entirely fair to the scripted parts, they do take place almost entirely in German. And when they have an unwitting audience– like the three bewildered cops watching Brüno get into a couple’s argument… in German– it is decently funny.
So I do think the movie is funny, and I guess I think the scripted filler is okay. Here is what I do not think: Brüno will not change the world. Some people seem to think that Brüno will change the way that Hollywood depicts gays– but I think that the limp-wristed, lispy sissy is already on its way out. Brüno could not have possibly caused the decline of that terribly regressive portrayal, nor will this movie speed it to its end.
What kind of an impact could Bruno have anyway, if the joke is lost on 47% of people already?