ANORA. And They Lived Happily Ever After [REVIEW]

Baker is not just a “representative of the American New Wave.” With his previous Red Rocket and this year’s Anora, he proves to be a one-man tsunami.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

23 May 2024


On her ID, she’s Anora (Mikey Madison), but call her Ani. It’s shorter, cuter, more American. Every night at the sex club, the twenty-five-year-old makes a tidy sum. Hundreds of dollars tucked into her bra and panties. Free drinks, meeting someone new every evening. Plus, a friendly and considerate boss and a supportive colleague. Ani’s looks and temperament also attract premium clients. One of them is undoubtedly Vanya (Mark Eydelshteyn), the spoiled son of a Russian oligarch. Lap dances in the VIP room, then invitations to a golden mansion. One, two, three, four, five parties, spending all the money in the world. The charms of youth, a bank account like a bottomless well, finally a spontaneous wedding in Las Vegas. Oops. She hit a snag.

The problem is that the heir to a multi-billion-dollar empire married a sex worker. For the boy’s parents, this is obviously unacceptable. Before they arrive in New York by private jet, a few more or less savvy goons will come to Vanya to annul the marriage as quickly as possible. By persuasion, threat, whatever it takes. Feisty and mouthy Ani has little to lose and won’t be easily intimidated. A signature is a signature. Certificates don’t burn. Regardless of the circumstances, the girl stands her ground. No matter how infinitely powerful the opponent is.

The plot of Sean Baker’s Anora might be called contrived, but it’s that particular case where it becomes an asset. A narrative device allowing complete focus on the titular character. Transitioning from one extreme to another, or perhaps already accustomed to constantly living in that state. It’s also an excuse to showcase craftsmanship in other areas of filmmaking. Baker is a master of film rhythm, dialogue, working with actors, character development, narrative structure, and editing. His Anora flows smoothly, matching the intensity of the Safdie brothers’ recent films, while its classical three-act composition does not detract from the feeling of experiencing something fresh and unconventional. Sean Baker is not just a “representative of the American New Wave.” With his previous Red Rocket and this year’s Anora, he proves to be a one-man tsunami.

The dynamite in Anora is the leading Mikey Madison. One can expect that she will now join Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney, and Margaret Qualley in breaking down doors for generational change in Hollywood. Ani combines immense charm and self-irony, can be sweet and alluring, but with a slight impulse, authentic fury appears in her eyes. Catchy phrases and witty retorts are, of course, thanks to Baker the screenwriter, but the multi-scale voice tonality and animalistic, natural aggression are signs of extraordinary talent. Sean Baker knows how to polish acting diamonds.

In Anora, Sean Baker once again explores the American underworld, the gray area of the environment, and the social margin. Anora is like a Cinderella story rewritten by Jordan Belfort. It is also an informal continuation of the masterful Red Rocket and a development of the themes present there. There, Mickey Saber saw a future porn star in the astute Strawberry. Ani may not have made it in front of the cameras, but it’s still a business where sex is a commodity. Baker continues to be interested in human relationships understood as transactions and exchanges of services. In reality, it’s material for toxic friendships; for Baker, it’s fuel for outstanding cinema.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Cinema took a long time to give us its greatest masterpiece, which is Brokeback Mountain. However, I would take the Toy Story series with me to a deserted island. I pay the most attention to animations and the festival in Cannes. There is only one art that can match cinema: football.

See other posts from this author >>>