The phenom that is Borat is the most talked about movie of the moment. It is outrageous in its concept, amazing in its execution, and stars a unique talent (Sacha Baron Cohen) whose Ali G. character is a mere prelude to the “Comet from Kazakistan.”
But why is Borat the sold-out hit it is?
For even though it is a hybrid of a reality TV movie version of Punk’d and a Fool Triumphant on a Golden Fleece quest, Borat follows the requirements of the BS2 beat for beat.
Surprised? It’s true.
Story is what makes it so satisfying.
Set-up, Theme Stated, Catylst moment and Break into Act Two of this film include introducing the world of Borat in Act One, sending him on his mission to America, and the debate of what he will do once he gets there. This even includes a nice “Save the Cat!” scene when Borat introduces his 42-year old mother. We like Borat, a new version of “Latka” from Taxi, a wide-eyed innocent. And that’s what Act One sets up more than anything.
The Break into 2 comes when, after wandering the streets of New York City, our hero discovers Pamela Anderson on TV one night starring as “C.J.” in Baywatch. He must have her. Like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde who arrives at Harvard to pursue her ex, then changes her quest to that of becomming a great lawyer, the original mission has now morphed into something else.
The Fun and Games begin with Borat and his producer starting their roadtrip across America. It peaks with his date with a call girl at the Midpoint, and comes to an All is Lost defeat when the two men separate after a fantastically gross nude wrestling match breaks out in a hotel.
A bereft Borat must now go on alone, but in the Dark Night of the Soul is actually “reborn” during a Pentacostal service and given the final push he needs to reach California and his quest to marry Pamela in Act Three’s Finale. And though it does not “work out” (to say the least), he is reunited with his producer and learns his lesson.
In a Final Image, the world of Borat has changed thanks to this journey. Back home, he has a new wife (the call girl he met in America) and his Village hails him as a hero.
I see in the credits that Jay Roach participated in this project along with director Larry Charles (who also directs the free-form Curb Your Enthusiasm). Like Charles, Roach, who is responsible for such films as Meet the Parents and Austin Powers, knows a good story, even when it feels unstructured. Borat shares many similarities to both movies.
Story is structure, even seemingly free-form story telling such as this. And what makes any story satisfying is a primal tale we can identify with. None is more so than the “stranger in a strange land” fable.
Borat is just the same thing… only different!
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