Poor Things sees Emma Stone reunite with Yorgos Lanthimos for a sexual awakening odyssey story, as a Frankenstein’s monster-like creature crafted from a grown woman and the brain of an infant.
Stone shows her range effortlessly, gliding through the film from baby brain to fully formed adult as she matures. Her partnership with Lanthimos appears to have no constraints as she quite literally bears all, delivering a truly unique performance that few others could even dare to attempt.
Though this is through and through Stone’s film, Mark Ruffalo is having the most fun as an outrageous cad who whisks Bella off to explore the world, and every sexual position he can think of. Rounding out the main ensemble is Willem Dafoe as her ‘god’ Dr Godwin Baxter and Ramy Youssef as a young student who takes a liking to Stone’s Bella, each fully committed to the bizarre alternate world they find themselves in.
The main pitfall of Poor Things comes from its source text, Alasdair Gray’s novel of the same name. In having the brain of a baby put into the body of a woman, it’s hard not to feel uncomfortable as the men of the film fawn over her beautiful naivety, desperate to own, have and control her. Whilst the film cleverly ensures Bella’s sexual awakening is of her own discovery, the initial 30 or so minutes may sit uncomfortable for many aware of the sexy baby trope that has plagued Hollywood for decades. Thankfully as we see Bella’s world open, we move away from this into a powerful portrayal of female sexual identity and a look at the constraints patriarchy has placed on female desire.
Lanthimos and his cast handle the adaptation with skill, but perhaps the most delicious part of Poor Things is the simply gorgeous costuming and beautiful visuals from Holly Waddington, Shona Heath and James Price. While the film is sure to get some awards noms in the acting categories, it truly deserves its praise for the enchanting steampunk fairytale world it invites us into.
A thoroughly interesting film that continues Lanthimos’ unique stamp on the film landscape, it’s hard to imagine any other cast or crew pulling a feat like Poor Things off.
A final warning to anyone thinking about their viewing plans. This is not a film to see with your parents. As someone who sat through The Favorite very uncomfortably next to their mother, Poor Things is in a whole other league of raunch. Vive le sexual revolution, just in a separate room to mum and dad.
Where to Watch
Ex film teacher and frequent couch potato. I try and see at least one new release a week, but I’ve somehow got to 30 without having seen The Godfather?