I just saw BRUNO: 10% clever, 25% funny, 50% vulgar, 15% dangerous = 100% OUTRAGEOUS
Well, I finally went to see "Bruno" last night because I really just wanted to form my own opinion on the film. I'd read all about the controversies and wanted to decide for myself. I'd also been reading reviews saying it was: hilarious, outrageous, brilliant, uncomfortable, offensive, and unsettling. I have to agree a little bit with everyone. I was the least prepared for the segments of "adult content" that included full-frontal nudity (complete with dancing/talking penises), live sex at a swingers party, and an extended scene about anal sex. I also thought the talk show scene included a lot of racist gags and cheap shots at Africa and the African-American community.
In spite of all of this, there were moments of clever social critique. I loved his take on the fashion world - that velcro suit bit was hilarious. Particularly because it actually happened during Milan fashion week! I also really appreciated his critique of the cult of celebrity - the whole premise of the film is that he's trying to get famous after losing his show, "Funkyzeit" in Austria after the fashion week debacle. One of his ideas is to tackle a global problem, like George Clooney and Bono. His meeting with philanthropy PR twins was just depressing (they didn't even know where Darfur was), and his attempts at brokering peace deals in the Middle East ranged from mildly funny to flat-out dangerous (asking to be kidnapped by a terrorist). His epiphany that to be famous in the U.S., "like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kevin Spacey", is that he must become straight: *hilarious*. I found this particularly funny because he chose actors that have long been rumoured to be gay or bisexual, but make their money capitalizing on their heterosexual "leading man" personae. Anyway - he uses this as the motivation to meet with a pastor at a church that specializes in "ex-gay ministry" and uses these interviews to lead him into highly awkward and even dangerous situations (Army basic training? hunting with homophobes in Alabama? cage-fighting in Arkansas? asking to be unlocked from his lover in full leather B&D gear by Fred Phelps "God Hates Fags" demonstrators?)
What really disturbs me about this film is that is does not have a clear message. Viewers will take away from it whatever they brought into it. That is to say that if you are a member of ex-gay ministries, a hunter from Alabama, a member of "God Hates Fags", or someone who attends cage fights in Arkansas, Bruno is not going to help you reflect on your anti-gay prejudice. For example, one discussion forum has a post that reads: "I read somewhere that the National Fag Association of America, or whatever it's called, said that Bruno only adds to the negative image of homosexuality, even though this movie was supposed to accomplish just the opposite. HAHAHA.... I hope that's true and not just a publicity stunt... HAHA... Bunch of fags... even when you stage a situation to create sympathy for them, they sill come out looking like a bunch of nasty freaks." Many of the scenes that focused on sex did have an incredible "ick" factor: not because gay sex is gross, but because it was presented in such a way as to be disturbing and laughable. Lots of hetero sex can be disturbing and laughable as well, but there's enough mainstream steaminess to counterbalance that. However, if you already think gay sex is gross, this film will reinforce your views. The 3 minute song at the end was the highlight with some great cameos, but it wasn't enough. I won't say more about it, because it really is the best part of the film, and I don't want to ruin it for you.
Driving home from the movie theatre, I was discussing the film with my partner who found it a bit funnier than I did, but agreed that it was full of cheap shots and shocking scenes that were there just to be outrageous -- no message, no clever wit -- just, "Oh my god, I can't beleive he did THAT!" I don't beleive that Sacha Baron Cohen is homophobic. However, a lot of people in the audience are and will feel justified in their views because his character of Bruno does reinforce some harmful stereotypes. I saw this movie for $5 (2 for 1 coupons, baby!) and am glad I didn't pay more. I wouldn't recommend paying full price for this film. If you are curious, wait to rent it or find some other way to keep from giving Universal Studies your $$.