If you thought romance was lost in the tangled web of modern fairy tales, think again. Sean Baker’s latest film, “Anora,” resurrects the magic in a whirlwind of glitter, grit, and unexpected emotion. Just fresh from its premiere at Cannes, this electrifying story is ripe with vibrancy and complexity, chronicling the journey of Ani, a Manhattan exotic dancer, and Ivan, the brash yet endearing son of a Russian oligarch.

“Anora” thrives on its Cinderella-esque charm but through a refreshingly unconventional lens. Baker, known for his raw and empathetic portrayals in films like “The Florida Project,” once again flexes his directorial prowess. Starring Mikey Madison as Ani and Mark Eydelshteyn as Ivan, the movie captures the audience with its kaleidoscopic blend of cultures, languages, and currencies, both financial and emotional.

The plot kicks off with Ani’s routine disrupted one evening by Ivan, who walks into her club, exuding the lavish frivolity of someone who has never had to worry about a price tag. Ivan’s innocence and Ani’s savvy quickly spark a connection, leading to a relationship founded on both passion and pragmatism. It’s this chemistry and the compelling performances of Madison and Eydelshteyn that propel the film’s 138-minute rollercoaster of events.

Baker’s portrayal of transactional relationships is both non-judgmental and layered with humor and tenderness, avoiding the pitfalls of glamorization or degradation. This nuanced approach to sex work challenges societal taboos and anchors Ani’s plight within a broader narrative of survival and ambition.

Ivan’s whimsical proposal and the couple’s impromptu Vegas wedding form the fairy tale’s crux. Yet, like all of Baker’s stories, reality intrudes swiftly—cue Ivan’s outraged parents and the escalating chaos that ensues. As Ani navigates these shark-infested waters, the narrative twists and turns with Baker’s signature spontaneity, making for an unpredictable yet relatable emotive journey.

With its striking cinematography and unfiltered storytelling, “Anora” is a gem that delves deeply into the often-unseen world of sex workers, portrayed with sensitivity and authenticity. As you watch Ani’s dream unravel, you’re not just a spectator; you’re emotionally invested, cheering for a resolution that’s as complicated as it is heartfelt.

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