Monday, July 13, 2009

Toby Young on Bruno

Unlike almost everyone else, Toby Young did not enjoy Sacha Baron-Cohen’s Bruno:
A sophisticated, metropolitan audience is being invited to laugh at poor Southern blacks for not having the wherewithal to conceal their visceral disgust when being confronted by someone who looks suspiciously like a pederast. If the purpose of satire is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, then Bruno doesn’t qualify as satire. On the contrary, Baron-Cohen is comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.
He also thinks that at least some of it is staged, not real:
For instance, there’s a scene in which Bruno is asking a stage mother a series of provocative questions in order to determine how far she’s prepared to go to get her baby cast in a film. If it turns out her 30lb baby is ‘too fat’ for the role, would she be prepared to put him on a diet so that he loses 10lb in the course of a week? Yes, she says. And if he hasn’t lost the full 10lbs, would she be prepared to give her baby liposuction? Once again, the answer’s yes. That can’t possibly be true — what mother would countenance such treatment of her baby? — yet the scene depends for its humour on the audience believing the mother is real. Once it dawns on you that the mother is being played by an actress, the laughter dies in your throat. More importantly, it loses its satirical point: we’re witnessing an actress playing a cultural stereotype created by Baron-Cohen and his co-writers to confirm their prejudices about what stage mothers are like.
Over at the revitalised NZBC, Mark Broatch doesn’t like it much either:
. . . it is soon clear that there is no story, only a clanking, predictable skeleton of laser-bleached segments wired roughly together. My suspicion is that Bruno was originally meant to be a spoof of the fashion industry, but they, wise to Borat, saw Bruno coming.

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