Review: At the heart of Poor Things is Emma Stone’s exceptionally dedicated performance, making a compelling case for her second Oscar for Best Actress. Her willingness to embrace daring characters and collaborate with auteurs like Yorgos Lanthimos reinforces her status as one of the industry’s leading performers.
Yorgos Lanthimos, known for his unconventional singular storytelling and subject matter, reunites with Emma Stone in Poor Things, a film that boldly blends romance, science fiction, and comedy. The result is an outrageously funny and audacious cinematic experience that stands as one of the most memorable films I’ve seen in 2023.
At the heart of Poor Things is Emma Stone’s exceptionally dedicated performance, making a compelling case for her second Oscar for Best Actress. Emma Stone embodies the character of Bella, a reanimated girl with echoes of the classic Frankenstein tale. Her childlike, funny, and amusing portrayal not only captivates but also commands every inch of the screen. Stone’s willingness to embrace daring characters and collaborate with auteurs like Lanthimos reinforces her status as one of the industry’s leading performers, and she may have committed her best performance yet in this film.
And Yorgos Lanthimos, renowned for his unique directorial style seen in films like The Favourite and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, brings his distinctive energy, shot selection, and vibrance to Poor Things. The film’s visual landscape is nothing short of an accomplishment, with detailed and beautiful cinematography by Robbie Ryan. The decision to present the initial part in black and white, depicting Bella’s restrained life with her creator Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), adds a layer of artistic flair – especially when the world completely opens up as Bella leaves home for the first time.
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The collaboration between Stone and Lanthimos, previously seen in The Favourite, further proves to be a match made in heaven. The film’s elegant design, deadpan humor, and crazy slapstick comedy resonates with the golden touch of this director-actor duo. Poor Things feels like an evolution of Lanthimos’s previous works, showcasing an expansion of his artistic boundaries and inventive storytelling.
The set design in Poor Things stands out as a visual triumph, possibly the best in 2023. The aforementioned transition from the restrained black and white to a vivid and dreamlike world as Bella ventures beyond her home is a visual spectacle. Yorgos Lanthimos creates a hyper-detailed, ornate, and eye-catching environment that feels like the culmination of his career-long visual aspirations.
The supporting cast, headlined by Willem Dafoe and Mark Ruffalo, delivers noteworthy performances. Ruffalo’s portrayal of Duncan Wedderburn, a smarmy and predatory lawyer, is particularly great. His unhinged and stand-in for societal predators supplies much of the film’s social commentary. However, the film’s comedy occasionally loses its focus in the second half, as it tries to work deeper into these themes. The introduction of characters like Jerrod Carmichael’s Harry Astley, while performed well, doesn’t seamlessly integrate into the narrative, instead serving as a thematic cipher that’s easy to see right through.
And as the story unfolds, Poor Things navigates through these themes of equality and liberation, propelled by Bella’s desire to explore the world beyond the constraints of her time. While the film occasionally struggles with pacing and some comedic moments that may not resonate universally, its inviting nature, overflowing ideas, and visually stunning accomplishments make it one of the standout movies of 2023.
In the grand scheme of Yorgos Lanthimos’s career, Poor Things emerges as one of his best works yet. The film’s audacity, coupled with Emma Stone’s exceptional performance and Lanthimos’s masterful direction, cements its place as a movie that transcends the boundaries of its many genres.
See Poor Things in movie theaters
Poor Things Cast and Credits
Emma Stone as Bella Baxter
Mark Ruffalo as Duncan Wedderburn
Willem Dafoe as Godwin Baxter
Ramy Youssef as Max McCandless
Jerrod Carmichael as Harry Astley
Christopher Abbott as Alfie Blessington
Margaret Qualley as Felicity
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Tony McNamara
Cinematography: Robbie Ryan
Editor: Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Composer: Jerskin Fendrix