November 30, 2023

CINEMA | Emma Stone Resurrects 'Poor Things'

"Always carve with compassion."
Emma Stone Yorgos Lanthimos | Poor Things
Searchlight Pictures / Element Pictures
Idiosyncratic Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos reteams with star Emma Stone (also a producer) to adapt the madcap fantasia of self-discovery, Poor Things, based on the novel of the same name by Scottish writer/artist Alasdair Gray. This wildly surreal steampunk fairytale of a dark comedy feels just as heartfelt and earnest as it does shockingly sexually charged.

I cannot recall another performance from a mainstream female movie star at the height of her stardom as fearless as the one Stone gives as Bella Baxter. She literally bears all without any shame in dozens of explicit scenes of intense sexual gratification as essentially a childlike character transported in a reanimated woman's body (not unlike Frankenstein) who then goes on a journey discovering her own desires and agency throughout the bizarrely endearing oddball film.

An all-star cast of high-level male energy from the likes of Mark Ruffalo's male bimbo lawyer to Willem Dafoe's moving riff on the mad scientist genius Dr. Frankenstein (literally referred to as "God," short for Dr. Godwin) and Ramy Youssef as the sort of meek boyfriend-at-home role surrounds Stone's stunning performance of total innocence. Lanthimos' kinetic Victorian-era vision of London builds a sense of crazed wonderment through Bella's eyes.

Margaret Qualley Willem Dafoe Ramy Youssef Yorgos Lanthimos | Poor Things

Adapted on the page by British screenwriter Tony McNamara, everyone dials up the surreal period aesthetic times a million. Western Europe appears on screen as a saturated fantasyland of pure imagination as characters set sail across the Mediterranean. There are strong and obvious comparisons to the toy-like storyline of Barbie's glossy feminist themes and ideals to be made.

Stone and Lanthimos have created a sweetly perverse, hyper-sexual coming-of-age fantasy of a sex comedy through a vivid sense of comic absurdism in a surreal portrait of female independence and deeply psychological dissections of character archetypes. Poor Things is a daring and hilarious piece of work.

Poor Things screens exclusively at The Park Theatre starting December 15th before opening wide.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Inverse / Vogue

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