Featuring: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, Suzy Bemba, Jerrod Carmichael, Kathryn Hunter, Vicki Pepperdine, Margaret Qualley, Hanna Schygulla
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
In Cinemas: Now
From filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos and producer Emma Stone comes the incredible tale and fantastical evolution of Bella Baxter (Stone), a young woman brought back to life by the brilliant and unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). Under Baxter’s protection, Bella is eager to learn. Hungry for the worldliness she is lacking, Bella runs off with Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), a slick and debauched lawyer, on a whirlwind adventure across the continents. Free from the prejudices of her times, Bella grows steadfast in her purpose to stand for equality and liberation.
Poor Things has been the subject of much consideration around the current award season, and it is truly well deserved. Much of that concerns Yorgos Lanthimos, who creates something special and unique. He can be completely detached from humanity but intimately connected to characters and human emotion. He tells a relatable story about complex interpersonal relationships but at a distance, which brings a distinctive perspective to his latest film. He masters the art form of tone and performance with broad comedy, drama and pathos. Irishman Robbie Ryan joins Lanthimos for a second time as Director of Photography. His techniques are mesmerising; he mixes the familiar fish-eye look that we associate with Yorgos Lanthimos’s previous work with a blend of black and white and colour throughout the film that reflects Bella’s (Emma Stone) view of the world. The production design by Shona Heath and James Price is also impressive, with much of the movie’s look and scenery done practically in camera, which looks both surreal and real simultaneously, giving it the perfect feel. First-time composer Jerskin Fendrix produces a score that will arguably be unlike anything anyone has heard before, and it is equally different and addictive, which compliments the overall aesthetics of the film.
Overall, Poor Things has the perfect combination of script, performance, production, and post-production to hit the exact note of what this film is going for, which might only sometimes suit everybody’s tastes. The acting and performances are outstanding, especially Emma Stone, who has so much ground to cover in this movie. From broad comedy to moments of intense introspection to trauma, sexual awakening and pain. It is all achieved flawlessly, and she displays that through her artistically strong relationship with Yorgos Lanthimos. She uses this in moments of an interchangeable scale when the character needs to be perceived in a larger or smaller capacity and appearance on screen. This could be one of the best performances of her career, even considering that she is already an Academy Award-winning recipient. Willem Dafoe, as Godwin Baxter, gives such a reserved and brilliant performance even when his character is absurd and has to balance the grotesque with a slowly unfolding picture of his character, with the realisation that he is more humanistic than he thinks. As a physically and emotionally damaged man, his character displays perfectly the outcomes of abuse and the contributing factors associated with it. Mark Ruffalo exceptionally plays the thoroughly despicable Duncan Wedderburn, a small man with delusions of greatness, and sees an opportunistic venture with a vulnerable Bella.
The story is based on the novel Poor Things by Alasdair Gray, and the movie adaptation still manages to be distinctive and singular in its quirkiness. Bella, locked away from the real world, leaves her sheltered existence where she encounters and gets involved in bizarre situations where she has to construct and understand meaning while naïve and learning in a male-driven society. This makes the narrative more engaging, as we see the development and structure of a girl through the filter of the world around her and the modes of experience and interactions that encourage her to become a strong woman. Poor Things always has that richness about its story, accompanied by interesting characters, great performances, relatable themes, and a beautifully efficacious vision of our world. To give the film some minor negative criticism, at times, the film can seem jarring and a little long at 2 hours and 21 minutes. There are a lot of sex scenes in the movie, which can come across as languished and gratuitous in certain parts, which might develop into some debate surrounding the necessity of it. This particular film will not cater to everybody’s liking, but the combined components’ strength will surely or might outweigh that scepticism.