Anora (2024) Review

Anora Review


That Sean Baker is a talented filmmaker is that he can make us feel like we belong to a group or community even if the setting is completely foreign to us. In this case, the people are sex workers who care for each other with an intense loyalty that can be extended to anyone. Children having fun on their own while staying in a cheap motel just outside Disney World stimulates our minds too as it reminds us how it feels like when we used to create excitement from nothing especially when our parents were absent. Anora, Baker’s latest film showing in competition at Cannes this year, brings us into the life of a young woman from Brooklyn called Ani (she doesn’t like being referred by her full name which bears the same title as the movie although by end credits roll around it becomes only appellation fit enough for someone with such gentle yet fierce nature). She works as stripper in one of Manhattan’s many clubs but on particular evening her boss calls her over saying there is customer who asked specifically for russian speaker so because she’s uzbek american and used speak russian with grandmother now deceased this qualifies her. And so she meets Ivan – son of a Russian oligarch; funny little boy (he says he‘s 21 but you know better) most playful creature you would ever come across whose pockets are jukeboxes full of hundred dollar bills.

But this what gets Anora started? Great movies always have staggering yet gentle endings and director will twirl us around few times before revealing where Ani is headed eventually. Why does everybody love him? I don’t think there any other filmmaker more openhearted than sean baker or one that’s resourceful like him either stone soup creative should say. Tangerine showed how much can be achieved with so little however his latest work Anora: A Playful Film About Emotional Sensitivity Towards Life perhaps takes cake both in terms its emotional depth and witty playfulness. It is his best film yet.

Mikey Madison who portrayed Max Fox on better things plays as Ani in this movie, she seems to be satisfied with her job if not then doesn’t think about it much. Whenever at work, she becomes very warm and charming which obviously goes hand in hand with being a stripper but also you notice bits of her true self peeking through occasionally. Being too cautious may force someone hide their sense of humor but not her because aside from being witty herself there are times when she appears funnier than usual therefore implying that although younger than twenty three years old by looks alone could handle anything thrown at her physically or verbally given chance. When ivan (Mark Eydelshteyn) sees anora all he can think of is english lap dance for life

He asks Ani if she “works outside the club.” Before long, she finds herself at Ivan’s parents’ retro-futuristic Brighton Beach mansionette in heels and a stretchy dress. Buzzed in by the guard, she rings the front door Ivan slides across the polished living-room floor in socks to open it, Risky Business style. They make small talk; she has to push things along. Finally taking the hint “Bedroom. Upstairs. Let’s go!” young Ivan is simultaneously cocky and terrified in that teenage way. It’s a whirlwind romance from here on out, a screwball-comedy pairing that’s all spinning adrenaline and giddy energy, until you know there will eventually be trouble in paradise.

For what feels like a good portion of the movie, Baker lets us bask in this glow of adolescent amour fou the feverish high point of which is an impulsive Las Vegas marriage between two kids playing house with each other. And then he flips everything around; storywise, it turns into spin-art chaos. New characters crash into our reverie: There’s Toros (Baker mainstay Karren Karagulian), Ivan’s officious but bumbling godfather, who shows up at the request of Ivan’s parents—they’ve gotten wind of their son’s marriage to a “prostitute” and have sent Toros over to correct what they see as a family disgrace. Garnick (Vache Tovmasyan) is the hard-nosed enforcer type who has drawn the short straw on telling Ivan about some very bad news regarding his life expectancy unless he leaves town soonest; Igor (Yura Borisov), asked along for extra muscle, seems kind of tough until you get a good look at his eyes and see there might be some poetry happening behind them. Ani fights them all off wildcat-style as they attempt to destroy her newfound happiness. She kicks Garnick so hard she breaks his nose. Igor does his best to physically restrain her while respecting her personal space. We watch as she defends her right to be romantically happy with whomever she chooses, until it slowly dawns on her that the dream she’s been wrapped in, like the Russian-sable coat Ivan has bought for her, is a thing with time limits and other people who can take it off.

Anora is fun in a very specific way crazy-good fun but Baker isn’t just out for the nutso entropy. I’ve heard some people comparing the film, in its crackpot liveliness, to the Safdie brothers’ work. But for my money, it’s more Something Wild- and Married to the Mob-era Jonathan Demme–esque; Demme at his most ebulliently generous. It’s as if Demme has been given back to us for one movie. Baker has that kind of love-all-of-em spirit.

Like Demme, he too is great with actors. Ivan is one of those spoiled rich kids who ring alarm bells that we choose to overlook. This happens because Eydelshteyn’s interpretation of the character does not take him across the border from naive innocence into pure calculated manipulation; he’s like a Czechoslovakian Hugh Hefner in training. In every scene, Borisov’s Igor works quiet simmering magic. As Toros and Garnick hurry Ani down the Coney Island boardwalk in freezing weather to fix Ivan’s mistake, Igor hands her a red scarf he snatched from the house because he thinks she might be cold; earlier, Toros had used that same scarf to stop her from screaming, so she glares at him before taking it with a sigh. Even though she would much rather deck him than accept anything he has to offer her right now—even though she would much rather deck anyone than deal with any more people offering anything ever again she is alive to kindness in the world, and also (though she doesn’t know it yet) to kindness in him.

Madison is wonderful. Every year at Cannes there’s an actress who captivates wide swaths of the audience; this year that seems to be Madison. She plays Ani as someone who has got it together so thoroughly you don’t worry about her for a second until you start glimpsing how embarrassed and vulnerable she feels about having been taken in by a lie a false dream and then that spontaneous resilient smile of hers starts shading into something that looks like worry, which is pretty wrenching really although also kind of beautiful or at least humanly true-seeming or anyway moving or anyway none-of-the-above but probably still sad-making on balance although we know Ani will get whatever happy ending Baker thinks she deserves even if he doesn’t actually hand it to us but merely points toward some possible future happiness after the movie’s over, after its last shining instant of grace, after one of those endings that leaves you feeling not just empty or whatever but actually a little bereft, because you’d love to be able to visit with these characters again, see how they’re doing in their hard-won joy but if you can trust any filmmaker at all then it’s Baker and he has promised us they’ll be OK. And so they will be.

Watch Anora For Free On Gomovies.

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