In Review: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Fourteen years have passed since Sacha Baron Cohen crashed cinemas with Borat, skewering American Bush-era xenophobia to, as the titular Kazakh journalist would say, “great success.” By now, the ability of Cohen’s stereotype amalgam to reflect American bigotry and idiocy has aged, as most flash-in-the-pan comedy sensations do. Immediately following the film, things got seemingly better in terms of the national climate; later that veneer was unmasked, and the exact psychosis Cohen was lampooning proved to have only gotten even worse. 

Which makes for the potentially perfect time for Cohen to revive his retired character in sequel Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, if only to mark the evolution of America’s white nationalism and misogyny over the past fifteen years. But what Cohen and director Jason Woliner underestimate is how dangerous his clueless subjects have become, how naive it seems to position their witlessness as impotent or without grave consequences. 

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In Review: Possessor

Straddling the lines between science fiction and grotesque body horror, Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor conquers genre boundaries as viciously as some of his onscreen violence. The film approaches issues of surveillance and identity to mind-bending effect, morphing into a grim psychedelic crime story that presents our minds as hacked by shadowy corporations. Andrea Riseborough stars as Tasya Vos, an experienced agent for a company with the technology to inhabit the brains of their marks and carry out assassinations in plain sight. But the business of inhabiting another person’s mind is having disorienting effects on Vos, blurring her own consciousness as she takes on her next assignment. But in the hands of Cronenberg, Possessor is as much of a head fuck for the audience as it is for his fractious protagonist.

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In Review: On the Rocks

In her delightful seventh feature On the Rocks, Sofia Coppola captures the New York City streets so lovingly as to deceive you into thinking she has always been a New York filmmaker. Or maybe it’s simply that the warmth and generosity she casts over her characters is so overflowing that it can only pour over into their surroundings. Without question, this is her most affectionate film, a deceptively light quasi-screwball comedy about reconciling a parent’s bullshit when it manifests in your adult life. 

But here Coppola seems to be leaving many of her definitive fascinations behind – most obvious being an Angeleno atmosphere both literal and in vibe, but also the dying gasps of youth. Instead she reveals some of the deeper characteristics of her point of view that register more subtly: suppressed emotional displacement, the fitful enlightenment of aging, and our inability to see just how good we have it. Is On the Rocks something of a pivot for the filmmaker? It at least feels like she has shed something cinematically, and given way to deeper feeling.

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In Review: Kajillionaire

Miranda July’s new film Kajillionaire, her first in nearly a decade, is another melancholy, silver lining-punctuated comic fable on the pains of being alive. But this effort finds July in her most accessible mode yet, telling a universal story about how we transcend the ways our parents screw us up that also finds the auteur at her most optimistic. Here we follow Old Dolio (a droll and committed Evan Rachel Wood), a young woman who lives with her small-time con artist parents (Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins) that have been as clipped in their affections as they are with their scamming. Their life is led by hardline pragmatism and small-time grifting to get by – mail theft, giveaways, evading the landlord of their office space home that seeps pink foam from the walls. While their is little space for compassion in this family’s life, there is still plenty of room for Julyisms.

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In Review: The Nest

Nearly a decade after emerging with the unsettling psychodrama Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sean Durkin has finally arrived with a follow-up to that horror-adjacent debut. That film launched the career of Elizabeth Olsen as its fractured titular character, and his latest, The Nest, should rightly send its underrated lead actress Carrie Coon into the stratosphere. But while this film also provides its female headliner with a rich role of stifled expression, here Durkin hones the forebodingly tense traumas of his first film into something less overtly menacing, yet still as keenly psychologically observed. Like a haunted house movie without the ghosts, The Nest thrills with a pervasive sense of unease and no catharsis, making for a special breed of melodrama that eschews the emotional demands of the genre.

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