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In the very first seconds of Sean Baker’s new sex work dramedy, a unique girl flicks her hair covered in glitter over her shoulder and sends a beautiful smile to him. So, meet Anora (Mikey Madison), the title character of this cinematic banger; however, she is living an American dream which is slipping through perfectly groomed hands. Soon enough, the confident stripper becomes engaged in a quickie romance with a wide-eyed billionaire that results in an amazing wedding ceremony of Cinderella. But life is always throwing strange things at us, and there’s some awful spin on the one that comes Anora’s way in this touching, tragic, and truly exceptional movie.

Madison’s portrayal brings forth a fresh face for Hollywood who has both heart and bite. It seems like Ani (as she refers to herself) can do anything and so much of that presence comes from the fact that Madison has layered her character well enough. You can’t help but adore this girl’s audacity and her frank Brooklyn accent as it is almost impossible not to fall in love with them. The Scream hashad absolutely electric chemistry with co-star Mark Eydelshteyn who plays Ivan –a 21-year-old who enters into Anora’s strip joint one evening looking for a Russian-speaking dancer.

Eydelshteyn’s turn is as much of a breakout as Madison’s, making an impression in several hilariously memorable moments throughout Anora. He giggles while speaking ‘Russian’, slips Risky Business style across his kitchen floor and makes eager little backflips landing into bed. Eydelshteyn presents us with someone who is full of zest for life, eccentricity itself, altogether loveable until his age clocks up with him when he realizes he has been too childish all along. In the second half Isaac does not even resemble himself anymore and Eydelshteyn sells every bit of the switch-up with a frustrating, defeated nonchalance.

But there’s a third character key to Anora’s success: Igor (Yura Borisov), a soft-spoken and tender Russian fixer employed by a goon squad that works for Ivan’s father. By the time the bunch of heavies – a tough guy, an absolute imbecile and an awful lover having excellent slapstick relations – reach Ivan’s mansion to dissolve his marriage, this actor proves himself as Anora’s unwavering moral compass before constantly subverting expectations further. Sometimes he is hilarious, other times heartbreaking but eventually forms a complicated relationship with Anora that blossoms in thought-provokingly realistic way.

Baker has often been able to juxtapose fun and engaging films along grisly themes, one such being ‘Anora’ which is as visually stimulating and audibly captivating as Red Rocket or The Florida Project. Through Take That’s “Greatest Day” or t.A.T.u.’s “All things she said”, we hear these loud beats of music filling up red-and-blue spaces of Anora’s workplace. His infectious excitement about her new life – with new friends, more money, what seems like true love – is shown through wild party montages. As its cast of misfits desperately try to get annulment at all costs every scene ups the stakes with fast pace and frantic tone. Baker’s directorial eye exudes pure confidence and it allows his mastery to shine through.

The setting also contributes to the energy and atmosphere. Like The Florida Project and Tangerine that have their basis on the disorderly nature of life on the margins of Orlando and Hollywood, New York City’s Anora is driven by a random mayhem that is only peculiar in this town. Not the New York we know either from movies: Baker takes us into Brooklyn’s Russian community as he gives us a multifaceted slice of this area in Anora’s two-family house, Ivan’s sprawling mansion almost suspended over it more modest environs, along the colorful boardwalk shops between Gravesend and Jamaica Bays. As our characters’ wild goose chase brings them to Manhattan’s tonnier background, it feels like New York expands for Anora making it apparent that this story would be different if it happened elsewhere.


Sean Baker’s moving and funny Anora lays out its protagonist’s innocence on a platter for us to see what happens when one expects so much from life only to be let down at the critical moment. In this brutally honest exploration of sex work, class divisions, broken promises and commitments; he touches our souls to tell us how cruel reality can get through his tale about social outcasts. Every Sean Baker movie has this aspect but in Anora Mikey Madison, Yura Borisov as well as Mark Eydelshteyn all together made him seem like once-in-a-lifetime magic wielding director ever lived. This film is an experience – it cuts through everything else due to his brazen filmmaking thus rendering these scenes impossible not to feel for oneself; hence proving why it is his finest hour.”

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