Horror

‘Poor Things’ is a Fantastically Wild Ride [Review]


Poor Things is a movie that left me completely disoriented. Well, there were a few factors that played into my disorientation. First, I was lucky enough to attend a press screening for Poor Things. I had never attended a press screening before, so I was already a little bit off balance, and outside of my usual movie viewing routine. What could be so different about a press screening? The answer is nothing at all, I’m just that kind of anxious lunatic. Second, there was a ton of sex in Poor Things, albeit movie sex, with A-list movie stars. I have a ton of experience with sharing this particularly awkward experience with a crowd in a movie theater. It’s always dead silent, and particularly weird. But for whatever reason, in a “professional” setting, it was just that much weirder. I even saw someone taking notes during coitus. I went into this thing doe-eyed with a pen and pad and stumbled out of the theater as an adult. Lastly, Poor Things is just a very disorienting experience, unlike anything I have ever seen, with bold performances, insanely creative storytelling technique and dizzying camera angles that are rarely seen in a commercial release like this. Let’s dive in…

Poor Things is the most recent Emma Stone vehicle, reuniting the actor with Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed her in the award-winning The Favourite. Both Stone and Lanthimos have incredibly eclectic careers going for them and seem to have found each other at the peak of each of their powers. To start, Emma Stone is a bonafide movie star. From Superbad in 2007 all the way through Poor Things in 2023, Stone has done everything from comedies to rom coms to action and superhero films to prestige dramas and musicals, Stone has done them all, and done them all well.

Emma Stone might be the rangiest modern movie star, and it is impossible to put her in a genre box, which is rare for a thespian of her stature. Yorgos Lanthimos is also someone who is impossible to put in a genre box. His movies are all over the place, weird, mostly uncomforting, but of course, professionally well-executed. Stanley Kubrick is a name that should come up later when dissecting the film technique in Poor Things, but to get that ball rolling, Lanthimos is maybe the closest thing we have to a Stanley Kubrick type filmmaker. Kubrick is a comet, and incomparable, but just in regard to wide-ranging stories, technique, pessimistic thematic elements, and emotional responses to the work from an audience, Lanthimos checks those boxes. Poor Things was written by another Stone/Lanthimos collaborator, Tony McNamara, and is based on the book of the same name by Alasdair Gray, but Poor Things is a Lanthimos/Stone project, in what seems to be a budding partnership…

Poor Things is not a movie with just one movie star. Poor Things also features a multitude of other well-known names, including Mark Ruffalo (Zodiac, The Avengers), Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse, Spider-Man), Ramy Youssef (Ramy), Christopher Abbott (Possessor, Girls), Margaret Qualley (Sanctuary, The Nice Guys) and Jerrod Carmichael (Neighbors). Each performer is given their time to shine, and shine they do. Each one of the aforementioned names embrace the odd nature of the subject matter and bring a necessary energy that improves the movie greatly.

Across the board, each performer seems to understand the assignment, rows in the same direction, and most of all, brings something unique to the table. Whether it be Dafoe’s Dr. Frankenstein-esque evil scientist/fatherly figure performance as Dr. Godwin “God” Baxter, Mark Ruffalo bringing a specific weaselly-ness to the Duncan Wedderburn character, Ramy Youssef brining an innocence and meekness to the Max McCandles character, Christopher Abbot imbuing an intense and misleading energy, Jerrod Carmichael giving a tongue-in-cheek and goofy set of line deliveries and Margaret Qualley being, well, weird. There are plenty of other great performances from European performers as well. All in all, everyone brings their A-game, which really helps to enhance Emma Stone’s breathtaking performance as Bella Baxter…


Poor Things is a story about a scientifically experimented on human porcelain doll, Bella Baxter, of course, played by Emma Stone. Bella is an adult, with a mysterious past, who is now seemingly brainless, like a child, and being experimented on by Dr. Godwin Baxter, who Bella refers to as God, played by Willem Dafoe. Bella is sheltered to the nth degree and behaves in a very inhuman way. Bella moves and speaks like an unhinged and uneducated robot. But she is desperate for experiences, and to explore, and to do anything other than be trapped in an English Manor, circa Victorian times. After a half-assed arranged marriage to Max McCandles, played by Ramy Youssef, Bella’s sexual exploits provide an opportunity to travel the world, with a cartoonish character named Duncan Wedderburn, played by Mark Ruffalo. Bella possesses a special charm, and every male encounter leads to that male becoming unhealthily attached to Bella. After receiving permission to fly the coop and join Duncan on his travels, Bella finally has an opportunity to see the world, and not only does Bella discover the world, and all of its eclectic characters, but more importantly, she discovers how to be happy, and self-sufficient…

Throughout Bella’s odyssey of self-discovery, she comes across actual cities like Lisbon, Paris and Alexandria. But these are not Lisbon, Paris and Alexandria as we know them. Poor Things takes place in an alternate reality of sorts. A near future, but also maybe in a past time period. These cities are turned into the most fantastical Dr. Seuss-esque versions of themselves. With a jaw-droppingly creative bunch of set designs, these cities are so much more alive than you could possibly imagine. Poor Things brings the audience into a world of three-dimensional paintings, with characters. The color and architecture and technology is so far removed from real life, but beautiful enough for it to not feel cartoonish. Lanthimos, along with production designers Shona Heath and James Price deserve so much credit for building a world that would be hard to even conjure in your mind, and then shooting it like a surrealistic mosaic…

Even though the world of Poor Things is fantastical and totally surreal, the characters themselves are darkly interesting but also comedic in a satirical way. Bella makes her way around the world, and each character she meets on her journey helps her to grow and obtain a better understanding of how the world works, both good and bad. From willingly joining a brothel to make money, to trying and failing miserably to donate to the poor, to freeing herself from a dangerously possessive ex-lover, Bella gets into so many hijinks, and her transformation is an interesting one, but it takes a long time to get to the finish line. Poor Things is nearly two and half hours long, and it really feels like it. Although I was wrapped up in the story, and the sets, and the filming technique, I kept finding myself checking my watch, wondering when we were finally going to reach some sort of conclusion. That’s not to say Poor Things is bad in any way, it’s actually a monolith of brilliant filmmaking, but the story itself got tired after a while, and the outlandish dialogue really starts to wear on you. The performances from all of the leads and supporting actors are totally impressive, each bringing a great deal of unique flare to their respective characters, but it is hard not to get a little bit weary when it’s two hours in and Mark Ruffalo is still talking like he’s doing a Saturday Night Live skit impersonating Bela Lugosi…

Switching gears back to the filmmaking technique itself, Lanthimos brings a totally unique approach to Poor Things that is purely hypnotic. To me, it felt like I was watching a Barry Lyndon spiritual successor in regard to the set design as well as the unique camera angles, but with the energy and stylistic flair of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Obviously, it is hard to even compare filmmakers like Lanthimos, Kubrick and Gilliam, but it is very hard not to draw the stylistic similarities. The set designs were crazy enough, but to add in fish-bowl lenses and an abundance of push-ins to go with artful transitions when switching locations, Poor Things has a very disorienting effect. I found myself many times losing track of the dialogue because I was so wrapped up in the visuals. To be honest, not a lot even happens in Poor Things plot wise, but the amount of window dressing is overwhelming. Bella’s journey is obviously a very uplifting one, with plenty of dark moments to go with laugh out loud comedic elements that work over and over again, but the real meat on the bone is in the visual presentation. For a movie that really pushes the envelope, and has some scenes that really go for it, the consensus reaction to Poor Things will be an awestruck one, with that awe coming mostly from the visual presentation…

I have an incredible appreciation and respect for Emma Stone’s performance in Poor Things. The stuff that she is doing in this movie is brave, funny, insane and charming. A true superstar performance that is so rare in its flawless execution. The Bella Baxter character could have been the most ridiculous and annoying character of the year, but Stone flips that on its head and turns it into one of the funniest and most loveable characters of the year. Bella has a butterfly like transformation over the course of the movie, culminating in the end, although it takes too long to get there. As we reach the finish line, the final act is generally lighthearted and funny, but also darkly unsettling, an odd combination of emotions. Interpretation is not an issue, as the empowerment and enlightenment themes hit you directly in the face, but the dramatic emotional and tonal shifts is powerful, and is what makes Poor Things so impressive. It is a fever dream of a movie that defies logical filmmaking, logical storytelling and logical logic. Like I had mentioned previously, I stumbled out of that theater but not just because of the amount of sex being had, I stumbled out because I was electrified by the energy of Poor Things. All in all, I had an issue with the runtime, and also the fact that there weren’t a whole lot of twists and turns in regard to the storytelling, which made the movie drag at times. But the visual presentation, filmmaking, and performances were so wild that I was awestruck regardless of those issues that I had. I’d recommend Poor Things, but I’d also urge caution, as it is a truly unique experience unlike any other…

Love Real Life Ghost Hunting Shows? CLICK HERE FOR MORE!

Wicked Horror Rating: 7.5/10

From Searchlight PicturesPoor Things is playing exclusively in theaters as of December 8th, 2023.

Post Views: 11

Liked it? Take a second to support Alex Kane on Patreon!



Original Source Link

Related Articles

Back to top button