Venerated cultural institution and friends of DMNDR Cinema Under The Influence presented a special screening of Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Brothers Grimsby at the Union Square Regal Theatre last night. Sacha made an appearance dressed in a cowboy hat, bolo, and boots, just because. After the screening, Sacha answered audience questions, peppering the crowd with a mix of unusual empathy, intellect and humor that seems to always catch people off guard. This is where Q&A’s shine — a film has no better chance of being appreciated than through the context of the filmmaker. It also gave the audience an opportunity to psychoanalyze the structure and deeper meaning of the dick joke. Seriously, that happened.
Brothers Grimsby follows two brothers from the post-industrial fishing town of Grimsby, England who are reunited after 28 years. One has risen to become a decorated spy (Mark Strong) while the other has become a caricature of the non-working class, entitlements-sucking leach (Sacha Baron Cohen). Now the integer opposites join together in a Bond-style adventure to prevent a villain (Penelope Cruz) from effecting a sinister plot to rid the world of “scum.”
Few filmmakers can consistently make an audience feel a certain way. Cohen guts his audiences, always. Nevermind if his tool of choice is the lowly dick joke. Stated empirically; the woman next to me fell into near hysterics at least thirteen times during our screening. After the showing, when she went out into the high contrast light of the lobby, she seemed less enamored. This is how satire goes. It makes you very drunk, and leaves you with a “what just happened?” hangover when the lights come on. We recoil when we reconstruct the glee we felt in our minds, and then apologize for it. Critics of satire tend to write about the hangover. There’s nothing sophisticated about inebriation. I’d recommend you go get drunk. It’s fun.
Like real-life super villain Donald Trump’s popularity, Sacha’s satire reminds us that the world is filled with xenophobia, sexism, classism, lookism, and hypocrisy. It questions our tendency to exalt the violent, ultra sociopathic qualities of James Bond while we claim to revere Ghandi. The jokes work, the audience roars, and then critics rip it to pieces for its threadbare plot, Penelope Cruz’s awkward wig and the film’s inability to suspend disbelief. The critics, the establishment, they don’t get it. As I walked out of the theatre I flicked my phone on. Trump did well in Michigan, Missouri, and Hawaii. Pundits are projecting he will win the GOP nomination. His material kills. I remain suspended in disbelief. At least I had a good laugh.