Movie Review: Poor Things

Movie Review: Poor Things

By Bessy ADUT

I saw many good movies last year but I can open-heartedly say: Poor Things has been my favorite film of 2023. The most important reason is that this was the most original movie I have seen last year. The story was definitely breathtaking. I should warn the readers and viewers, this is not for everyone. In fact, on a movie forum, a person commented "You have issues" when I said this was one of my favorite films. I still am behind my words because I think this movie actually deserves awards in all categories; the top of them being the best screenplay, best acting both lead and supporting roles, production design, costumes, soundtrack, cinematography, editing, visual effects, and need I say more? Of course, it is most likely going to be nominated for a few and possibly win a few. Emma Stone’s performance is absolutely stunning among all her supporting actors/characters.

Let’s go ahead and look at the background of this movie. The film’s genre is considered "black comedy fantasy" which turns out to be one of my favorite genres. It is a quite dramatic movie but at many points, you can hear yourself laughing with the audience. It’s most certainly a fantasy alright. We could even call it a modern fairytale or an adult version of Alice in Wonderland.

Poor Things is a 2023 black comedy fantasy film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and written by Tony McNamara. It is based on the 1992 novel of the same name by Alasdair Gray. The film stars Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, and Jerrod Carmichael. Its plot focuses on Bella Baxter, a young Victorian woman who, after being crudely resurrected by a scientist following her suicide, runs off with a debauched lawyer to embark on an odyssey of self-discovery and sexual liberation.

The film is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos who is mostly known for the nominated and Academy Award winning previous films "The Lobster" and "Favorite". This is the second time he is casting Emma Stone. The screenplay was written by Tony McNamara and based on a novel of the same title by Alasdair Gray. Film’s golden star cast ensembles Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbot, and Jerrod Carmichael.

Our main character played by Emma Stone is Bella Baxter who is portrayed as a young Victorian lady.

SPOILER ALERT! Starting here:

A scientist saves a pregnant woman from death in a very interesting and unusual way. The pregnant woman’s body is dead so he takes the baby’s brain and puts it into her head. She is resurrected. When we first meet the character we just think she just has special needs then find out about her true self. Her scientist father gets himself an assistant from a doctoring school who slowly falls in love with her but when they get married, she falls in love and runs off with a lawyer. During this journey, she discovers herself, the world and her own sexuality. I should note the film has many R-rated scenes however, everything is done very artfully.

Medical student Max McCandles only in time becomes her true love after he lets her go and explore herself and doesn’t go chasing after her even during times she could have been considered his possession, as well as the surgeon Dr. Godwin Baxter's. They experiment on her like a science project and they take it with maturity that she needs to go exploring and experimenting for herself. Bella truly explores herself and the world with all its beauty and ugliness during her desire for freedom. Meanwhile, at home, her father and fiancé start another experiment with another young woman named Felicity.

Bella and Lawyer Duncan start a fun experimental journey together and travel the world starting in Lisbon. Bella starts running off by herself and it becomes harder and harder for Duncan to keep her under control. He tries kidnapping her somewhere else for a different place as he gets jealous of her. When they are on the ship, Bella makes new friends Martha and Harry, and she learns new things from them. Martha tells about the joy of reading books as a way of exploring different worlds and herself whereas cynical Harry shows her the dark sides of humanity and the world as we know it. Meanwhile, Duncan starts to drink and gamble more.

When Bella sees the poor, starving children and suffering people she wants to help and gives away all her money. That becomes the last drop for Duncan he gets really frustrated and can’t give the comfort Bella seeks. Of course, it’s implied that money is stolen by the crew. As they don’t have any money left they are thrown off the ship at Marseille. They make their way to Paris as miserables. Out of options and money, Bella becomes a ‘bad woman’ so to speak. She thinks it would be fun and she would have freedom doing so however soon enough she starts to get bored and disgusted by that lifestyle. She neither wants to go back to Duncan even though she protests to her new boss. She also becomes good friends with Toniette and we see her bi side as well as their interest in certain politics.

In the third act, Bella gets a letter finding out her father is at his death bed so she decides to go back and pay a visit. When she returns to London she realizes that she has feelings for Godwin. We see she always had an interest in science and she decides to become a doctor like her father and fiancé. Godwin’s freethinking and modern ways make her feel real love towards him and they decide to renew their vows. Even her very sick father finds a way to make it to their small, modest wedding. However, they get interrupted by her husband from her previous life, Alfie. As Bella is a curious person, she wants to go and find out who Victoria was in her past life so she goes along with him. Shortly after, she finds out this man is a sadistic psychopath and she is completely trapped there literally in the point of a gun. She feels imprisoned and even her body choices are about to be taken out of her hands. However, she manages to turn things around somehow, still keeping her goodness in a very ironic, funny way. I am going to leave that one surprise to the end. Not going to spoil it for you even for the I don’t mind read spoilers readers. That’s too funny and I’d like to keep that mystery.

This eccentric, artistic, and weird movie ends with a happily ever after in its own way. Even the credits sequence is very surreal, creative and artistic.

In terms of development, production companies that were involved in the production were: Film4 Productions, TSG Entertainment and Searchlight Pictures. This movie's development started as early as 2009, the year I graduated from CalArts. On a personal little fun fact, sometimes it really does that many years for a movie to reach its full fruition. And film has been in pre-production since 2021. Some of the filming took place in Europe such as in Hungary and Budapest. Apparently, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a big inspiration for the creative team led by the cinematographer Robbie Ryan.

The costumes were remarkable and I have no doubt I'll find them in the Oscar nominations this year. Traditional mixed with some bizarre fairytale fantasy, lovely colors and textures.

The film was released recently and still playing in the theaters. Most critical reviews have been positive so far. It has 8.7/10 on Rotten Tomatoes which is a great sign. Some of the comments are: wildly imaginative, over the top, bizarre, brilliant which I agree with all as well as beyond next level performance by Emma Stone. I also can see inspirations from famous directors' works such as Wes Anderson and Terry Gilliam and yet still original in its own way. Somebody called it a "steam-punk wonderland." I do like that humorous comment as well. I should add this is not a movie for children or very young audience, it takes a certain maturity. Of course, there are many opposite views about Bella’s choices as well. That’s understandable and fair from a scientific and feminist point of view. However, she is curious, experimenting, and finding the right way in the end.

Poor Things

That is all my dear readers and viewers, whether you agree or disagree with my feedback hope you enjoy the movie for yourselves and feel free to reach out to me with any questions or feedback as well.

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my new blog: https://bessyadutwrites.wordpress.com

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