‘Poor Things’ sets new standard for opulence

The plot of Poor Things is simple; a mad scientist places the brain of an unborn baby into the mother, a woman who’s just committed suicide. The trajectory of Poor Things is a bit more complex.

The audience is propelled through a bizarre labyrinth of Fin de siècle morality as we follow the Candide-like adventures of reborn woman Bella, Emma Stone in an award worthy performance.

Like a fever dream that mixes the styles of Buñuel, Kubrick, Jodorowsky, and Jeunet, Poor Things director Yorgos Lanthimos has created his most compassionate film to date. 

Lanthimos long ago crossed the rubicon of acceptable virtue with films like Dogtooth and The Killing of a Scared Deer. In his first English language film The Lobster John C. Reilly’s character had to put his hand inside a heated toaster for jacking off. In Poor Things sexual abandon is not punished but celebrated.

As Bella comes to life once again she escapes the confines of her creator and wanders the world in search of carnal and intellectual pleasure.

Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in POOR THINGS. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

This is cinema of cruelty (to be kind). Poor Things is based on a novel by Scottish author Alasdair James Gray that will now become required reading.

Production design deserves its own article. Every scene assault the visual senses. There are some set pieces you just want to freeze in time and spend the rest of your life in contemplation at the wonder of its beauty.

Even while Bella is exploring the various positions of every sexual act conceived the background texture threatens to overwhelm her own insouciant desires.

Bold choices and great performances dominate this visually stunning film. If Emma Stone doesn’t take home her second lead actress Oscar® there may be riots in the streets. Willem Dafoe, and Ray Youssef, and Mark Ruffalo co-star. Each supporting performance would demand a spin-off film in an alternative universe.

While Poor Things may be too strong for non serious film goers, the journey certainly pays off for lovers of pure cinema. Provocative to be sure; and such boldness deserves accolades.

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