The XX Factor

Bruno’s Neediness

Jess , Willa -I agree: Bruno did not rock my umlauts off, either.

Mostly the film just felt flat to me, which may simply be a function of the fact that you can’t capture lightning in a bottle twice. Can we ever be as innocent as we once were, pre- Borat ?

But my friend had another interesting theory, which is that Bruno is just too self-centered a character to work in this kind of improvised film. Someone who’s always hogging the spotlight can’t generate situations that are very interesting or organic-their narcissism tends to shut down any sense of free play, of give-and-take. After all, Borat was just as campy and ridiculous and offensive a stereotype as Bruno, but the whole premise of that earlier movie was that Borat wanted to go to America and learn about Americans. He was genuinely curious-which meant listening to and engaging with his (unwitting) scene partners. Even when the scenes were cruel, they were also oddly generous: Baron Cohen wanted his marks to have all the best lines.

But Bruno’s goal is to become famous at all costs, which means that his general M.O. in every scene is to yell, “Look at me, look at me!” It was exhausting. Maybe that’s why the scene that worked best for me was the excruciating and hilarious bit with the stage parents-which, you’ll notice, is one of the few scenes where SBC really sits back and lets someone else command the screen, even if they don’t quite realize it.

Final (for now) unrelated thought: Did you know that SBC’s first job after graduating Cambridge was as a male model? True story, according to Richard Corliss at Time. The mind boggles. Anyone know where we can get some footage?

Photograph of Sacha Baron Cohen as Bruno by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images.