Bruno is a difficult movie to review. When it is good it is very good. But when it is bad it is very very bad.
Bruno (Sacha Baron Cohen) is a gay 19-year-old Austrian who spends his life following the latest fashions. Following a desire to become famous, he teams up with Lutz (Gustaf Hammarstan), who becomes a devoted manager, and travels to America where he tries out various means to draw the attention of the world to himself. But getting fame is a bit harder than he expected. Using candid-camera style interviews, Cohen presents a series of cutting social satires loosely tied together in a narrative structure.
So ... what is good about Bruno? At its best, Bruno is a cutting, sarcastic satire of the modern infatuation with hollow celebrity fame. A number of the scenes in Bruno are brilliant at exposing the vacuous stupidity of so much human behaviour and attitudes. The interviews with women desperate for their children to become models and willing to expose them to almost anything dangerous or immoral to do so; being counselled by a fundamentalist Christian gay converter who wants to change Bruno to a heterosexual; posing as a heterosexual wrestler at a "straight" wrestling club where profound homophobia is revealed when Bruno and Lutz start acting out homosexual intimacies in the ring; and the intolerance of a TV talk-show audience when Bruno claims to have adopted a black African baby who is wearing a t-shirt promoting gayness. All of these scenes, and a couple more, provide some genuine belly-laughs and implied social commentary.
However, a number of Bruno's characteristics completely undermine the value of watching this movie. The explicit nudity, sex (including real sex at a swingers' party), extremely coarse language, and various other elements will be highly offensive to many (and quite rightly so). A significant amount of this material is overdone and unnecessarily "in-your-face". It is as if Cohen and his co-writer didn't know when to stop. The lack of subtlety reveals the unsophisticated approach to humour that is, in fact, a disrespect for the intelligence of the viewer. This material is truly awful and so crude I cannot describe it here — you really don't want to see it.
In summary, Bruno has some great moments. But the presence of overdone, extremely tasteless material that reaches a new low for cinema, makes this movie one that is best avoided.
USA MPAA Rating: R AUS: MA
Content Advice pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language
Steve Parker writes from Adelaide, South Astralia and shares his reviews of film and literature at his blog entitled Thinking Christian.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1772