Now Showing
32°C
Partly cloudy
Thu
30°C
Fri
30°C
Sat
30°C

Powered by WeatherAPI.com

USD $1 ₱ 58.70 0.0720 June 13, 2024
June 12, 2024
Grand Lotto 6/55
252123103642
₱ 36,857,649.80
2D Lotto 2PM
1722
₱ 4,000.00

MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Poor Things’ reimagines the coming-of-age narrative through an absurdist lens

‘Poor Things’ is a complete assault on the senses and this aesthetic is wonderfully maintained all throughout its 142-minute running time. Lanthimos’ incredible filmmaking is so perfectly matched for this story.

I’m a huge fan of the works of Yorgos Lanthimos. From ‘The Lobster’ and ‘Killing of a Sacred Deer’ to ‘The Favourite,’ I’ve found that his style of highly formalistic realities playing out a sort of morality play that critiques contemporary human society has always been executed with such a delightful meticulousness of craft. Not only are the worlds that he creates out of the box and off-kilter but the way by which he presents them amplifies the absurdity of human life. His use of crazy camera angles and distorted visuals (like the use of the fisheye lens in ‘The Favourite’) and the unsettling musical score that he favours; his works have always been equal parts hilarious and disturbing.

Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone on the set of POOR THINGS. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

Of the three works that he’s done that I’ve seen (and I heard his earlier, non-English works are even better), they have always been mired in irony and expressed a cynical view of the world. So, it’s surprising that his latest outing, ‘Poor Things’ ends somewhat hopeful, even joyful and it’s a shift that feels more aligned to his irreverent sense of humor because it still feels like the other shoe is about to drop. And unlike his previous films, this one ends right before it does.

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

‘Poor Things’ centers around the growth of Bella (Emma Stone). We are introduced to her as a woman who had “hurt her head” and is now learning everything all over again like that of a child. While the setting implies a Victorian-era London, Lanthimos and screenwriter Tony McNamara opt for a dreamy, lo-fi steam punk world. It has shades of George Melies with a bit of the Spanish architect and painter Gaudi splashed into the aesthetic design. Bella is in the care of a brilliant surgeon Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), a master of anatomy and surgery, who conducts experiments that is akin to Dr. Moreau. His home is a menagerie of strange animal experiments. A duck with a dog’s body. A chicken with a pig’s head. And then there’s Bella, a grown woman acting like a child.

Willem Dafoe in POOR THINGS. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

When Godwin asks one of his students, Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef) to watch over Bella and record her growth, he questions her origins but cannot help but find her attractive. He falls for her and in the urgings of the paternal Godwin, Max proposes marriage to Bella, who at this point is old enough to understand a portion of what it means and accepts.

Ramy Youssef and Willem Dafoe in POOR THINGS. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.© 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

Except Bella still wants to know more about the world, so seduced by a sly lawyer, Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), Bella leaves home to explore the world outside the safe yet imprisoning walls of Godwin Baxter’s home.

Advertisement
Mark Ruffalo in POOR THINGS. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

What presents itself as either a strange gothic romance or a meditation on the morality and cruelty of scientific experiments conducted in the post-period of enlightenment, the movie really is a coming-of-age story of a woman who wants to understand the world. Bella’s unique circumstance allows her to see the world as an innocent, with pure intentions and is grasping for experiences that will help her wrestle with all the emotions that come with the knowledge about the world itself. Her mental growth is quick and fast, and in a few months, she has the mind of an intelligent young teen (though the sentence structure of a verbose child) but, having the body of a grown woman, she discovers the joy and power of sex and enjoys it.

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos, Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2024 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

Sex, then, becomes the fulcrum of her understanding of power and joy. Bella questions the world around her, including polite society, which – when taken from her point-of-view – is suspect about the true nature of the power dynamics involved. Unintentionally, to understand the world, she has to face what it means to be a woman and what society demands from her. With her child-like point-of-view, she feels no shame nor guilt of which society bears upon her. And because this, she is so much stronger than everyone in the world around her.

Everyone in this film is incredible, Willem Dafoe and Mark Ruffalo are doing their best work – and these are two actors who always do amazing work – but here, they synch into Lanthimos’ sense of absurdity and they fit right in. The mannered performances are brought in with equal levels of absurdity but tempered with the reason that they don’t feel like they are hamming it up.

Emma Stone in Poor Things. Photo Courtesy of Searchight Pictures.© 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

But through and through, this is Emma Stone’s movie. It is all grounded on her and her portrayal of Bella. She is absolutely committed to this role and is unafraid of being foolish and vulnerable. She is acting with every inch of her body, creating a character that is rapidly growing before our eyes. From the times of Bella with the mindset of an infant to her fully grown and in full realization of who she is and what the world is capable of, you can see the shifts and nuances of the character’s transformation. If she wins her second Oscar for this role, it would be so deserved.

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

Lanthimos’ incredible filmmaking is so perfectly matched for this story. The pacing, the world building, the design, and the way he captures it on camera. After the prologue, he tells the story first in black-and-white to somehow mimic Bella’s view of the world – without colour, without understanding. But as she gets older, the colours start to come in. I was trying to take notice of when it would change and shift (I knew the film would be in color because of the trailers) but I was so engrossed in Emma Stone’s performance and the hilariousness of the screenplay that I totally missed the shift the film takes to colour. And when it does, the movie just comes completely alive as it coincides directly with Balla’s on growing perspective over the world.

It’s definitely a philosophical film as much as it is the ultimate coming-of-age story that I can think of. The incredible score by Jerskin Fendrix, with its discordant melodies highlight the imbalance of power and the ways by which Bella deals with the people around her. But the music finds moments of harmony, especially at its surprising end.

‘Poor Things’ is a complete assault on the senses and this aesthetic is wonderfully maintained all throughout its 142-minute running time. It’s an exquisite meditation on the world and manages to highlight the discrepancy of power between the sexes.

My Rating:


Poor Things is now showing. Check screening times and buy tickets here.

Related Content

Movie Info

Poor Things
Comedy, Romance, Science Fiction
User Rating
5.0/5
3 users
Your Rating
Rate
Critic's Rating
5.0/5
Read review

Share the story

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recent Posts

Hot Off the Press