Monday, November 06, 2006

Is it because they is American?

The majority of critics, with the noble exceptions of Matthew Bond in The Mail on Sunday and Phillip French in the Observer, have been wetting themselves over the Borat movie, which opened last week, although from the mountain of press it has received it seems to have been with us for months. The effect of all this hype has been to deflate most of the gags – seeing it this weekend, it all felt awfully familiar.

More importantly, the film fails in what was surely its main aim – to ridicule any American unfortunate enough to fall into Baron Cohen’s trap. Other than some chilling scenes at a rodeo, and a crass fraternity party which was obviously set up, all the people he meets are unfailingly polite, non-judgemental and open to him as an outsider. In particular, a group of feminists show quite remarkable restraint in the face of imbecilic provocation, and a dinner party group similarly behave with the utmost civility even when faced with the character’s unspeakable rudeness.

So the joke – hey, look at these dumb Yanks – rebounds completely, and in an odd way, ends up at the expense of the European audiences watching. Could this be why, at the end of the screening I went to, there was an oddly mirthless, joyless atmosphere?


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