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“Poor Things” marries thought-provoking feminist themes, literary influences, and surrealist fantasy into a sublime cinematic masterpiece.

Poor Things

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Poor Things, directed by Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, can best be described as Barbie meets Frankenstein in an out-of-tune Wes Anderson world. The exquisite acting, costuming, scene/setting, score, and story create a film that enthralls and makes the audience think.

Bella Baxter, played by Emma Stone — in an Oscar-nominated performance for which she recently won both a Golden Globe and a Critic’s Choice Award for Best Actress, is revived by Dr. Godwin Baxter, played by Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse), and the audience sees her experiences the good, the bad, and the ugly through the adventure she sets out on with Mark Ruffalo’s character, Duncan Wedderburn.

Lanthimos has become an arthouse icon known for his unique and visionary filmmaking style and panache for unconventional storytelling.

He’s previously demonstrated that distinct tone and sublime blend of beauty and horror or absurdity with films like The Lobster and The Favorite. His films tend to explore surreal themes, often from a darkly comedic perspective, while framing his wonderfully weird worlds with a strange but hypnotic visual style.

Poor Things is no exception; it’s a stylish showcase for his originality and personal flair as a filmmaker.

Every element of Poor Things is perfectly crafted to invite the audience into the odd and beautiful world Lanthimos created.

Poor Things

The Victorian-era costuming and various settings are breathtaking to behold, but there is always something a little off — whether it’s the use of lighting and shadows or the slightly out-of-tune score — something always feels not quite right in a way that instills anxiety and keeps us on guard even as we are charmed by the characters and seduced by the sumptuous visual style.

These moments where things feel askew allow the viewer to experience the world as Bella does — a mix of curiosity, wonder, and awe combined with a bit of apprehension, unease, and confusion.

It was a big year for stories centered around the female experience, with Barbie bringing feminist issues to the forefront and making them accessible and palatable to the masses.

While POOR THINGS may not be as perfectly suited to the mainstream sensibility or as adept at blending pop culture relevance with popcorn-munching blockbuster appeal, it may be even more effective at adding to the important discourse surrounding the struggles of women in a male-dominated world.

It’s a brilliant dissection of how women are valued (or not) and what they tend to be valued for.

Bella embarks on a journey of self-discovery, self-invention, and sexual liberation, discovering she wants more from the beautifully painted but inherently ugly world she is navigating.

Her story ultimately becomes one of personal transformation and the shedding of societal constraints and expectations to become untethered from the shackles of shame, gender roles, and stereotypes about what a woman should and shouldn’t be.

Emma Stone has been getting heaps of praise for her funny, endearing, fully committed role as Bella, and rightfully so.

It’s a stunning performance, showcasing the fine comedic talent she’s so well-known for as well as her equally honed dramatic skills.

She brings Bella Baxter to life with aplomb and ensures the audience is eager to take every step alongside her, eagerly watching her growth and evolution with each encounter, new idea, and adventure.

Bella is a logical and blunt character who speaks her mind, and Stone perfectly embodies her fearlessness and passion for discovery.

Dafoe is as excellent as you’d expect, portraying the logical scientist who creates odd experiments but has the biggest heart for his favorite experiment, Bella. I really loved Dafoe’s character and the nods to Frankenstein — as if Dr. Godwin is Frankenstein’s monster following his father/creator’s footsteps, except with much more humanity.

His assistant, Max, played by Ramy Youssef, is another sweet character.

Lanthimos does a terrific job creating characters we love and are rooting for while also giving us devilishly obnoxious characters, such as Mark Ruffalo’s Duncan. It was fun to see this typically affable and charming actor, known for effortlessly embodying quintessential good guys, play such a pompous character. It’s also a joy to watch the way his character changes alongside Bella.

Bella encounters so many wonderful and strange characters along the way, and each of them feels thoughtfully crafted.

Beautifully odd and difficult to forget, there is so much more to Poor Things than meets the eye — or that can be gleaned from the trailer — and that is exactly why it deserves to be seen. 

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 5

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