Borat (2006)

(no spoilers for this unspoilable movie)

Borat is … oh man, where to start? I know I’m supposed to like this movie. Critics loved it. Audiences loved it. Its screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. For a while people were constantly talking about it and I felt strange not having seen it. It’s not that I didn’t want to, I just never got around to it (because every other movie in existence also calls for my attention), so now, eight years later, I finally watched it and, what do you know, I didn’t like it. Strangely, I expected to like it so this was a surprise to me. I have some issues with the movie but it boils down to one thing: I didn’t find the movie funny.  I saw what it was trying to do but I sat through all of it with an earnest face, not even registering a smile. It’s not that I didn’t understand it or that it was too offensive or something, I just couldn’t laugh about it. It was boring to me, especially the “story” parts. The interactions were somewhat interesting, but that was about it. I couldn’t even say it’s a bad movie, but it’s definitely not a movie for me. And I think its ideas don’t translate well to a movie, this is just made for TV.

Still, I can see its intention, to uncover people’s prejudices and racism by making them feel comfortable and I think that’s a clever idea. It might be embarrassing for those people but I don’t really care about that. My problem lies with the background story, the scenes in the village in the beginning and all these things. I did find that offensive or maybe just unnecessary. Whatever the movie wants to achieve, I don’t see any point in including those scenes for that goal. No matter if we believe it or not, the movie gives us the impression of people from that region of being simple-minded, primal and ignorant. Why do we need that? Why do we need to see Borat’s home life? Why does he need to have a backstory in the first place? If the movie just consisted of him interacting with unknowing people, wouldn’t that be more effective? How can he not be making fun of those people himself, I really can’t see how he doesn’t. I think Sacha Baron Cohen is smart, but in those scenes the movie doesn’t give us anything other than a demeaning portrayal of a certain kind of people we know for its own comedic purpose. Even if he had different intentions, the risk of doing it that way and reinforcing stereotypes seems too high to me, especially if there are different ways of doing it that would be just as effective.