By Tyler Gibson
Maria Bakalova deserves an Oscar -not just a nomination- for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm for going toe to toe with Sacha Baron Cohen, but not only that, for stealing his own and forcing him to step his game up. Borat is the most iconic character of the last decade and a half. Stories from Borat’s theater experience in 2006 have been fondly passed down for years as a myth. You clearly remember watching the naked fight scene in the hotel from the original, and you will now not forget the already infamous “Moon Blood” dance in this installment. That is due to the inspiring fearlessness of Maria Bakalova. Sacha Baron Cohen has been chasing the high of Borat ever since to diminishing results with “Bruno” to “The Dictator.” He has finally found the Holy Grail with Tutar, a compulsively and demonically hilarious character played to unbelievable effect by Maria Bakalova. As Borat’s equally unpredictable but immensely lovable daughter/sparring partner, Tutar is perhaps the most iconic comedic character since Borat himself. What Tutar lacks in recognizable, buzz-worthy catchphrases, she makes up for in gobsmacking mania. With the flicker of an eyebrow or distorted limbs beyond comprehension, you cannot believe the things she says with her creative, broken dialogue (“You are sugar baby?”) and the insane situations she entangles herself in (a shocking Women Republicans meeting). What makes this all the more impressive is how it is Bakalova’s first English-language role, and her immersive commitment to character and improvisation is nearly unprecedented. It is a historic once in a lifetime, generation-defining, “a star is born” performance. The film requires so much from her that could result in humiliation, and she effortlessly over-delivers with bold aplomb like a seasoned, masterful pro. Whenever she appears on-screen, you cannot take your eyes off her, trembling with gleeful anticipation, antsy for her next side-splitting zinger or physical set-piece. It is one of the most outstanding performances I have ever seen. Maria Bakalova is a revelation.
Maria Bakalova deserves an Oscar for lighting a progressive, feminist fire in a film and genre that usually lacks equality. Tutar is a young woman sheltered and fed lies by the government and men in her life. While journeying alongside her father through America, she maintains her strength, although those around her undermine it. By doing so, she builds a resonant and relatable arc of self-discovery. Considering this is also Bakalova’s first proper visit to America, Tutar’s story is brought to life with genuine and authentic empathetic absorption. She welcomes emotion to wash over her expressive face. The film suffers from some questionable politics and scrappy, unsettling detours (a visit with a Holocaust survivor can only be watched through squinted eyes and gritted teeth). However, Tutar’s relationship with herself and father is the heart and soul of the film. Maria Bakalova sincerely gives Borat Subsequent Moviefilm its rhythmic pulse
Maria Bakalova deserves an Oscar because the Academy needs to atone for their sins. For far too long, they’ve embarrassed themselves by refusing to embrace diversity. As a Bulgarian actress, an Oscar nomination for Maria Bakalova would be meaningful and monumental. The Academy consistently struggles with relevance and struggling ratings. Why not nominate the most provocative, memorable character of the year? It is impossible to imagine an actor delivering a greater performance than Maria Bakalova’s high-wire act, let alone capturing the zeitgeist. It’s a breath-taking, cathartic performance that needs rewarded because it was constructed under such delicate conditions. Get on board early because Maria Bakalova is a natural star destined for legacy.
Maria Bakalova deserves an Oscar because she faced the evils of America without backing down. The much-discussed Rudy Giuliani scene is unfathomably stressful to endure, and the context and background of this despicable man make it all the more terrifying. If it was difficult for the audience to experience, imagine the position she was in. Yet she maintains her composure with courageous bravery and class. Maria Bakalova deserves an Oscar because she made us laugh again, made us smile in a year full of misery, made us courageous and hopeful again through the power of film. The Oscars must reflect that. Give Maria Bakalova an Oscar.