Anora Review

Reviewed on May 22nd at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival – Competition. 139 Mins

Cast: Mikey Madison, Mark Eydelshteyn, Yura Borisov, Karren Karagulian, Vache Tovmasyan

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Director: Sean Baker


The Palme d’Or was awarded to this love story that subverts the traditional concept of a Cinderella romance, challenging its conventions while simultaneously, in an enigmatic and tender manner, ardently embracing its essence. The film intricately balances critique and celebration, presenting a narrative that deconstructs the fairy-tale tropes yet passionately affirms the power of love.

What would “Pretty Woman” look like if it reflected the realities of sex work, even slightly? It might resemble something akin to Sean Baker’s astounding tragicomedy, a high-energy blend of romance, denial, and betrayal. This film, which defies traditional love story conventions, reaches its peak in a Las Vegas wedding chapel in the dead of night. From there, it descends inexorably into a chaotic and extraordinary spiral of accusations and confrontations, all playing out in something close to real time. The aftermath of this emotional whirlwind lingers far longer than the brief, illusory happiness that preceded it.

The protagonist of the story is Anora, who prefers to go by Ani. Ani, a New York escort and table dancer, is portrayed with vocal snap and physical grace by Mikey Madison, known for her role as Manson groupie Susan “Sadie” Atkins in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. One evening, the club manager enters the women’s dressing room to announce that a high-roller is requesting a dancer who speaks Russian. Ani, who has an Uzbek background and grew up with a Russian-speaking grandmother, steps forward to take on the task. The high-roller is Vanya, played by Mark Eydelshteyn. Despite his sweet face, Vanya is an appallingly entitled and bratty son of an oligarch. Ostensibly a student, Vanya actually spends his time frivolously using his father’s wealth. Accompanied by his group of Russian-speaking associates, Vanya immediately feels a spark with the tough, intelligent, and unsentimental Ani. Vanya repeatedly invites Ani to his extraordinarily luxurious home and pays her a five-figure sum to be his exclusive girlfriend during a trip to Las Vegas with his sycophantic entourage. Overcome with infatuation for the stunning Ani, Vanya proposes marriage during the trip.


Ani allows herself to believe that her wedding is genuine and that the certificate is legally binding. However, her hopes are soon shattered when Vanya’s disapproving father sends a group of thugs to handle the situation with his foolish son, whom Ani touchingly believes will support her. Among these tough enforcers is Igor (Yuriy Borisov), a man as violent as the rest but who displays an unexpected streak of sensitivity and almost chivalrous behavior towards Ani. The dreadful saga of Ani and Vanya has the horrific allure of a slow-motion car crash, the kind that makes people call the police but not an ambulance. It’s evident to the audience that Vanya, with his incessant chatter and delusional cocaine-fueled antics, is deeply unreliable. Ani is not blind to this reality either. Yet, Vanya’s arrogance and foolishness are no worse than those of the other men in her life. The difference is that he is young, handsome, immensely wealthy, eager to marry her, and, most importantly, he actually does marry her. Ani assesses her situation and chooses to believe in this unlikely marriage. Throughout, she remains neither hardhearted nor cynical; Baker and Madison make it clear that Ani is not headed for a downfall in a moralistic sense. Like Marilyn Monroe’s character in *Gentlemen Prefer Blondes*, Ani views a man’s wealth as akin to a woman’s beauty. On some level, she understands that Vanya’s parents may disapprove, but she believes that the undeniable legitimacy of a Las Vegas marriage certificate will eventually win them over. What follows is a darkly comedic, and disturbingly realistic sequence of events characterized by Vanya’s cowardly betrayal and escalating violence and hysteria. Despite the chaos, Ani retains her dignity, while Vanya’s father is revealed to be yet another weak man. The story reaches a poignant climax when Ani, in her pride, refuses to accept humiliating gifts without reciprocating, even if it means performing a private dance in a car. This scene underscores Ani’s fierce independence and self-respect. Mikey Madison’s portrayal of Ani is outstanding, evoking the potential for her to excel in future offers and roles. Her performance is commanding, owning the screen with every scene. Eydelshteyn’s depiction of the irresponsible Vanya is equally compelling. Baker’s direction is robust and fluent, enhancing the film’s overall impact, making it a memorable and engaging piece.

Overall: 8/10

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