It’s hard not to appreciate all that Maria Bakalova is able to accomplish in her break-out role as Tutar from the new Borat sequel.
There’s no telling what’s going to happen at the next Academy Awards ceremony, if it’s even held next year. With the countless delays to movie releases, The Academy has only a small pool of options to select from. That’s not to say we haven’t seen some great films this year, but does it mean that the Oscars are going to be almost exclusively Netflix and streaming movies?
In any case, allow me to throw Maria Bakalova’s name into the ring for her performance as Tutar in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. We’re already seeing opinions online that Maria Bakalova could be in the running, not just for a nomination, but for a win in the Supporting Actress category. Allow me to completely lean into that hype.
I can’t stop thinking about how difficult of a role this must’ve been. It takes an enormous amount of skill to be able to embody a completely absurd character while interacting with real people, but you also have to be able to convince those people to take you seriously and not catch on to the fact that it’s all an act. Either Bakalova does this flawlessly, or the producers of the film are the best scouts of gullible people in the world. I’d say it’s the former.
On top of this, you have to do it along-side Sacha Baron Cohen. S.B.C. might be the best at this one particular thing in the world. From Borat, to Ali G to Bruno, this is what he’s made his living on. Not only does Bakalova keep up with her co-star, but there’s plenty of times where she outdoes him.
Bakalova shines when she’s allowed to take the reins and enhances every scene she’s in. In fact, all of the most memorable moments in this movie are a direct result of Tutar (minus Borat quarantining with random people). There’s the scene where she swallows the plastic baby on the cupcake and goes to a crisis pregnancy center so she can have the “baby” removed. There’s the debutante ball dance. We won’t get into details but it’s definitely something you’ll have trouble forgetting. There’s the oddly touching conversations Tutar has with the babysitter (the babysitter is the sweetest woman on Earth next to the Jewish lady at the temple Borat visits). And of course, there’s the Rudy Giulliani scene everyone has heard about by now.
Bakalova’s talent to improvise endlessly was something that was needed considering how the entire film could have been derailed by Covid-19. It seemed as though the majority of Borat 2 was filmed prior to the pandemic where the whole production itself needed to improvise in order to finish the movie. It’s a testament to everyone who worked on this film that they were able to adjust and tell a coherent story that already appeared to be pieced together as they went along.
But the real reason this movie works, is the dynamic Tutar brings to Borat. All this time, the purpose at the heart of every Borat production was to use extreme high jinx to reveal the true nature of American culture and politics. With the addition of Bakalova’s Tutar, Borat was given an opportunity for real character development and Borat 2 was provided with an emotional through-line that elevated it to new heights.
In a movie full of outrageous costumes and gags that make you roll over laughing, the aspect that carries the film is the relationship between Borat and his daughter Tutar. Borat is largely about tricking real people who don’t see it coming, and yet the most unexpected thing is that there’s a genuine emotional story arc between Borat and Tutar. Looking at all of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work, would you ever think you’d see that from one of his characters? Without Bakalova, we don’t get this and there’s really no reason for another iteration of Borat. Now that she’s been added to the Sacha Baron Cohen universe, I can’t wait to see what’s next.
This has been an incredibly strange year, to say the least. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is an incredibly strange moviefilm. Bakalova gives an incredibly strange performance. Doesn’t it make sense that the incredibly strange result of Bakalova winning an Oscar would happen?