Brüno and His Discontents
BY William McGuinness
July 10 2009 12:00 AM ET
Cohen explores much of America this way; his character and accent are stereotypes gone too far. He greets strangers -- including Appalachian hunters, Southern gay-converters, and Paula Abdul -- with a wide-eyed, "Hi, I'm Brüno." The events that follow surprise until your eyes match in "Oh no he didn't" astonishment. Some vignettes reveal ignorance where one might expect it. In others, Cohen slips from what might border on a treatise of Southern conservatives' views on homosexuality and unravels the quality through actions and plot points that are downright tacky.
He's a drunk dial who stumbles to represent anything truthfully. I wondered whether to do a deep reading or to shrug it off entirely. Walking from the theater, I'm sure others wondered if there really is some vitras en Brüno .
True or false, Brüno is important. While not Paris Is Burning or Before Stonewall , it will be absorbed by a much larger audience accustomed to representations of homosexuals that have become more minstrel than actual. Like many good jokes, this one is bound to fly over some heads -- and states -- but what keeps Cohen's creation from awakening the LGBT community in a cold sweat is a recognition that the true character flaw may lie elsewhere. Not all is forgiven, though.
I couldn't help looking down the lines at people who were struggling to make sense of the movie with me. I wonder how radically my conclusion differs from theirs and if the soreness in my ribs might be from a few swift kicks among the laughs.