Film Critique: Emma Stone Embarks on a Unique Quest in ‘Poor Things’

by Lucas Garcia
Poor Things Review

Creating a film abundant in consensual and exuberant sexual encounters that paradoxically lack sensuality is an intriguingly bizarre choice. In “Poor Things,” Bella Baxter’s initial pursuit of sexual gratification, humorously referred to as “furious jumping,” is just a fragment of her extraordinary and chaotic path towards self-awareness.

Director Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone display their peculiar yet effective collaboration, whether Stone is portraying an ambitious maid in “The Favourite” or a resurrected Victorian lady discovering her autonomy in this film. Stone’s talent in portraying dark humor enhances Lanthimos’ unconventional storytelling, offering her varied and challenging roles. The audience reaps the benefits of this partnership.

“Poor Things” is not an original creation but an adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel, skillfully transformed by Tony McNamara, the screenwriter of “The Favourite.” McNamara’s sharpness and humor shine in this adaptation, diverging from the harshness of his previous work. The film balances dark humor with themes of self-discovery.

Set in a twisted fairy tale world, Bella is perceived by men as an object for possession and domination. Her creator, Dr. Godwin Baxter (portrayed by Willem Dafoe), a scientist scarred from a traumatic childhood, wishes to shield her from external corruption. Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef), a student studying Bella, hopes to marry her. Meanwhile, the flamboyant lawyer Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) views her as a sexual counterpart, expecting her to share his adventurous spirit. Each character underestimates Bella, leading to unforeseen consequences.

Lanthimos’ films often evoke discomfort, and “Poor Things” is no exception, especially in its portrayal of a sexualized woman with childlike cognition for comedic effect. This raises complex questions about the exploitation of innocence and the responsibilities of a film in addressing sensitive topics, leaving viewers to ponder these moral dilemmas.

Stone’s performance is reminiscent of a marionette discovering mobility, contrasting her ethereal movement in “La La Land.” Her character evolves rapidly, exploring various facets of life and self-expression, leading her on a journey through Portugal, Alexandria, and Paris. Her defiance of societal norms adds a refreshing dynamic to the story.

The film is set in a fantastical Victorian era, drawing parallels to “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” Its visual splendor is a highlight, with contributions from production designers James Price and Shona Heath, and costume designer Holly Waddington. Lanthimos and cinematographer Robbie Ryan’s use of a fisheye lens adds to the film’s disorienting aesthetic.

While Stone leads the film, the supporting male cast, particularly Ruffalo, delivers exceptional performances. Ruffalo’s portrayal is both entertaining and humorous, showcasing a new facet of his acting repertoire.

“Poor Things,” released by Searchlight Pictures in selected theaters and widely on December 22, is rated R for its intense themes and content. With a runtime of 141 minutes, it earns three and a half stars out of four.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Poor Things Review

What is the movie ‘Poor Things’ about?

‘Poor Things’ is a film adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and starring Emma Stone. It tells the story of Bella Baxter, a re-animated Victorian woman on an anarchic journey to self-awareness, blending themes of sexual liberation, dark humor, and self-discovery.

Who stars in ‘Poor Things’ and what roles do they play?

Emma Stone stars as Bella Baxter, the central character on a quest for independence and self-awareness. Willem Dafoe plays Dr. Godwin Baxter, her creator; Ramy Youssef is Max McCandles, a student interested in Bella; and Mark Ruffalo portrays Duncan Wedderburn, a dandy attorney who sees Bella as a sexual counterpart.

How does ‘Poor Things’ compare to other Yorgos Lanthimos films?

‘Poor Things’ continues Yorgos Lanthimos’ trend of creating films with dark humor and unconventional storytelling, similar to his previous work in ‘The Favourite’. The movie combines a fantastical narrative with a unique visual style, marked by its use of a fisheye lens.

What are the key themes explored in ‘Poor Things’?

The film explores themes such as sexual liberation, the objectification of women, self-discovery, and societal norms. It also delves into the exploitation of innocence and moral dilemmas, presenting a complex narrative that challenges the audience.

What is the rating of ‘Poor Things’ and why?

‘Poor Things’ is rated R by the Motion Picture Association for its mature content, including gore, disturbing material, graphic nudity, strong language, and sexual content. This rating reflects the film’s exploration of adult themes and its portrayal of intense and sensitive subjects.

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Sarah K December 7, 2023 - 3:24 pm

I think the review could have given a bit more insight into the supporting characters, like Willem Dafoe’s role. But overall, a good read.

Mike Johnson December 7, 2023 - 7:31 pm

really liked how the review captures the essence of the movie, especially Emma Stone’s performance and Lanthimos’ unique style. It’s like reading a mini version of the movie itself!

Dave T December 7, 2023 - 7:46 pm

Not sure if the review mentioned the film’s cinematography enough, it’s a big part of Lanthimos’ films and would have liked to know more about it here.

Jenny H December 8, 2023 - 2:28 am

great review! captures the quirky and dark humor of the film perfectly. Emma Stone is such a versatile actress, isn’t she?


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