Running Time: 81 Minutes
The next character in Sacha Baron Cohen’s arsenal of disguises is the flaming fashionista Bruno. Born Austrian and “forever” 19, Bruno falls from international prominence as a fashion TV host when he arrives at a Milan fashion show wearing a suit made entirely of velcro. Predictable but amusing antics follow, at which point a dramatic montage exhibits Bruno’s pain at the rejection by his once loving and familial community of fashion-conscious celebrities. Thus begins Bruno’s journey to America to become a celebrity, and the audience’s journey through a generally hilarious but often extremely awkward film.
There’s no room for shyness or propriety in this film — in fact, there’s hardly enough room for Bruno’s preposterously extensive wardrobe, which obviously includes Bruno’s birthday suit. My memory of the first third of the film is dominated by the image of a dancing cock swinging riotously to European disco-pop. This seems dubiously entertaining, until you get to watch a focus group audience watch the dancing cock as part of a pilot episode of Bruno’s new TV show. Later in the movie, Bruno visits a Christian gay conversion therapist in the American South, in an attempt to become a straight super-star. There is a delicious schadenfreude in watching victims squirm in response to Bruno’s brutal brand of shock comedy; one can’t help but watch gleefully as the focus group grimaces and declares Bruno’s TV show “worse than cancer” or as Bruno hits on the obviously uncomfortable gay converter.
Yes, Bruno is outrageous and hilarious. But the comedy alienates you instead of drawing you in. Bruno is a character that works well in the small doses we get of him on Da Ali G Show. He is so flippant and flamboyant that a general audience can’t relate to him, much less love him. To me, his troubles were laughable instead of heart-breaking; his antics quickly became tiresome. After the first hour or so of the movie, I was ready for it to be over.
But Bruno was an excellent mockery of the way we treat and view celebrities today — many of them seem to do little of merit, and yet we idolize them, finance them, and obsess over their lives. Some of Bruno’s greatest moments came with the thinly veiled jabs at real-world celebrities and the things a rich and desperate/bored individual can do for attention. While I won’t be heading back to theaters to watch Bruno again, it was still an experience worth having. Maybe one night when my friends and I are stuck with a 6-pack of beer and some boredom, we’ll watch as much as we can stand, and still get in some good laughs.