I'm dorky enough to have made "friends" with the title character of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for to Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan on MySpace. I placed Borat (played by the hilarious British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, a.k.a. Ali G) in my "Top 8," and did the same on some fake profiles I made for a few of my friends who think themselves above the 'Space. Printouts of these profiles were our free tickets to a screening of Borat this past September, available only to the first 300 of Borat's "friends" who showed up to learn that sometimes being a dork really pays off.
I met up with some college buddies at Lloyd Center Cinema before the screening. We passed the time by drinking numerous beers under the myopic gaze of mall security and speaking loudly about sex in a fashion that would not have pleased the cranky feminists who, in one scene in the film, walk out on a meeting with Borat when he says that a woman's brain is the size of a squirrel's.
Before my pals arrived, I had spotted an acquaintance in line who told me he was waiting for Star Wars: Episode III. I completely believed him until some strangers felt sorry for me and straightened me out. I'm not only a dork, I'm a gullible dork, and therefore a perfect audience member for Borat.
Borat has been referred to as a mockumentary because the title character is a fake journalist, supposedly gathering information for his supposed homeland ("the glorious nation of Kazakhstan"). The film follows him from New York to California as he interviews, offends and woos American archetypal characters along the way, both real and fictional. Cohen, who developed the character on Da Ali G Show, so seamlessly assumes his lighthearted, naive, anti-Semitic, and homophobic Borat persona that he actually does produce a sort of journalism: one based on the limits of gullibility. Borat seems so ignorant, ridiculous and childlike that the people he meets feel comfortable abandoning any inhibitions they might normally have about their own quirks and prejudices.
Some survive having their true colors revealed, like a driving instructor who manages to end a ride with the reporter on friendly terms, despite unwelcome smooches and mid-drive swigs from a flask concealed in Borat's trademark gray suit. But others fall face-first into the trap, like a man who cheerfully admits to wanting to hang homosexuals once Borat says they do so in his country. What real journalist would have been able to get the man to display his bigotries so readily? This penetration into actual minds adds weight to an already hilarious gag.
The comedic height of the movie is an extended nude wrestling scene between Borat and the obese Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian). For me, though, the high point comes as our hero boards a Winnebago full of frat boys who counsel Borat, like of a pack of moronic fathers, against his quest to win the heart of Pamela Anderson. This window into the beer-bong-fueled world of frat life, peppered with clichÉs, inconsistencies and relatively offensive remarks, is priceless. At the time it was especially sharp because, exchanging glances from our scattered seats, my friends and I realized how much like the onscreen frat boys we must have seemed to the people around us in line outside the theater. We didn't even need a fake Kazakhstani reporter to bring it out of us. I can only imagine what I would have volunteered had Cohen been around to tease them out of my gullible ass.
Opens Friday, Nov. 3. Pioneer Place, Lloyd Cinema, Eastport, Cedar Hills.