December 15, 2024 / Searchlight Pictures
Starring: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Jerrod Carmichael
Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos
Brought back to life by an unorthodox scientist, a young woman runs off with a lawyer on a whirlwind adventure across the continents. Free from the prejudices of her times, she grows steadfast in her purpose to stand for equality and liberation.
Written By Darren
Rating 5 out of 5
Poor Things is a gloriously dark and awe inspiring odyssey of self discovery that explores humanity on a personal level that could only come from the brilliant mind of Yorgos Lanthimos, but it is the outstanding lead performance from Emma Stone that makes it one of the year’s best films.
If there is one thing that Yorgos Lanthimos is known for, it is for bringing some of the most outrageous and strange stories to the big screen through brilliant filmmaking. Whether it be the hilarious period comedy The Favourite, for which Olivia Colman won her Academy Award for, or The Lobster, one of his earlier and darker films, his filmmaking career has been defined by the darkness and strangeness of the stories he’s told with a wicked sense of humour, and Poor Things is no exception to what we have come to expect from Lanthimos. It’s a truly unique experience that only Lanthimos can deliver as he takes audiences on a visually arresting, deeply profound adventure built around one magnificent performance from Emma Stone that makes Poor Things a must see movie event.
After being brought back to life by a scientist, Bella Baxter is desperate to learn about the world and all it has to offer. While her guardian Dr. Godwin Baxter tries to shelter Bella from the hardships and cruelty of the world, Bella is desperate to see more and runs away with Duncan Wedderburn, a smooth talking but debauched lawyer, on an adventure across Europe. While on her adventure, Bella experiences all that the world and humanity have to offer, setting her on a new path in life demanding independence and equality as she becomes her own woman.
If there is one thing that is going to stick with you long after Poor Things concludes, it is the performance of Emma Stone. With one Academy Award already under her belt, Stone delivers a truly mesmerising performance that very well could earn her second Academy Award, which is no easy task. But the role of Bella Baxter lends itself to a spellbinding performance. Bella’s character arc over the course of the film sees her going from being a newborn child in the body of an adult without full motor control or the ability to speak, to a distinguished and intelligent woman capable of anything. Stone’s comedic background aids her well in the first half of the film as she embraces the absurdity of the role, delivering outrageously hilarious moments as Bella, both physically and through the sharp delivery of some wild lines of dialogue. There are some moments in the film that you would never expect to see in a film, but Stone delivers them with a devilish innocence that makes them absolutely hilarious. Though, it is the way the Stone allows Bella to flourish and become a strong, intelligent and independent woman able to take control of her life as she discovers both the wonder and darkness present in the world. There is a vulnerability that Stone finds within Bella that is heartbreaking, especially during her emotional visit to Alexandria, but also a fierce curiosity and strength in the unsavoury circumstances that she lives in during her stay in Paris that makes her a magnificent character to follow on this strange adventure. The range that Stone brings to the role is unparalleled and dominates the entire film from start to finish, making what could have easily been a strange film a captivating and riveting odyssey for Bella that will find a place in your heart. It’s nothing short of a sensational performance from Stone that is not only one of the best performances of the year and worthy of an Academy Award, but without question one of the best performances of her entire career.
This is Stone’s film, but she has an excellent cast of actors to work with that not only enriches her performance, but the entire film itself. Mark Ruffalo is despicably delightful as Duncan Wedderburn, the nefarious lawyer that whisks Bella away on her grand adventure. It’s a moustache twirling performance of epic proportions as Ruffalo hams it up on screen, perfectly matching the deranged tone of the film with an outstanding performance. The majority of his scenes are with Stone, and the two of them deliver a tour de force pairing with some outrageously hilarious moments that are bound to have the audience bursting into laughter. Willem Dafoe is excellent as Dr. Godwin Baxter, the scientist who reanimates Bella, finding a caring passion to his mad scientist-esque role, creating some powerful moments with Stone in the final act. The rest of the supporting cast includes the likes of Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, Margaret Qualley, Jerrod Carmichael, Kathryn Hunter and Hanna Schygulla, ensuring there is no shortage of powerful performances throughout the film.
The story of Poor Things itself is one that has to be seen to be believed. Adapting the Scottish novel by Alasdair Gray, Lanthimos takes the audience on a strange adventure. It’s a spin on Frankenstein, but there are themes of social inequalities, memory and identity woven through the comedic narrative that creates an unforgettable odyssey of self discovery for the audience to experience. Tony McNamara’s screenplay is incredibly smart, balancing shocking, laugh out loud comedic moments with the development of Bella’s character and her worldview throughout. It’s a difficult line to walk, but McNamara does it with ease, fully capturing Lanthimos and Stone’s energy, helping to deliver one of the most awe inspiring films of the year.
Bringing to life Bella’s incredible adventure is remarkable artistic craftsmanship throughout the entire film. The production design involves massive sets that capture fantastical elements of this Victorian world that the story unfolds in, as well as the various locations around the world that Bella sees on her travels, all filled with an incredible amount of detail and artistic design. Each costume is perfectly crafted to not only capture the time era of the film, but there is an evolution in Bella’s costumes over the film that match her intellectual maturity with more childlike costumes during the film’s first half to more form fitting and distinguished costumes as she discovers the person she wants to be. The cinematography is stunning, using both black and white during the film’s bleaker London scenes while Bella is still a child and embracing vibrant colours as Bella begins to see more of the world. There are unique camera angles throughout the film, such as the fisheye lens that gives the feel that you are watching the events unfold from one of the characters’ point of view. Every element comes together perfectly to capture this odd but brilliant story of self-discovery and enlightenment, that under Lanthimos’s talented direction creates one marvellous and unforgettable cinematic experience that has to be experienced on the big screen.
Not only does Yorgos Lanthimos continue to prove himself as one of the most daring filmmakers currently working, he has delivered his greatest film to date with Poor Things! It’s an ambitious story told through Yorgos Lanthimos’s signature dark comedic style, but the heart of the story will resonate with audiences as they embark on this life embracing adventure with Bella Baxter. From stunning production design, costumes and cinematography that brings to life this marvellous world, and a truly spectacular performance from Emma Stone that confirms her as one of the greatest actresses of our time, Poor Things is an unforgettable cinematic experience of self discovery that you will want to revisit over and over again!