If I were judging this on chutzpah, I’d be raving about Sasha Baron Cohen’s (Trial of the Chicago 7) return to the painfully satirical Kazakhstan reporter. And his supporting star, Maria Bakalova is every bit his equal, and certainly being recognized for her utterly unselfconscious performance. Their story and trials together transform into an entirely expected, but still touching, resolution.
But as a movie…let’s just say I knew I wasn’t their audience 3 minutes in, but I stuck with it primarily to see Bakalova. Once she had appeared, I hung on out of curiosity and just pure amazement at how much they got away with. But I still almost turned it off several times. I appreciated Cohen’s points and the final, crafted shape of it all, but I can’t say I enjoyed more than a small portion of the movie outright. The rest was through gritted teeth and being thankful that he was a brutal editor and kept most of the segments under the SNL pain limit.
I fully understand that many people will find this movie hysterical, diverting, and even rewatchable. And power to them. And power to Cohen and his crew for pulling off a high-wire act that is the epitome of dangerous art. But I can’t recommend it to those who align more with my sense of humor. I know I’m disappointing many friends by saying so, but there you go.