top of page
  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

Poor Things (A Movie Review)


Starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, Jerrod Carmichael, Margaret Qualley, Kathryn Hunter, Suzy Bemba, Hanna Schygulla, Vicki Pepperdine, Wayne Brett, Tom Stourton, Carminho, Jerskin Fendrix, Jack Barton, Charlie Hiscock, Attila Dobai, Emma Hindle, Anders Grundberg and Kecskeméthy Attila.

Screenplay by Tony McNamara.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

Distributed by Searchlight Pictures. 141 minutes. Rated R.

Sometimes a movie is so willfully different, so determinedly off the wall, that there are pretty much only two ways to react. You can appreciate the fertile imagination which led to the film, or you can just determine that it is just really odd.

Poor Things is beautifully shot. It has some terrific acting. It is often surprisingly funny. The cinematography was intriguing – going from black and white to vibrant color and often shooting scenes through a disorienting fish-eye lens. It was certainly arresting storytelling, at no moment in the film is the viewer not rapt.

Yet, all in all, Poor Things was just too fucking weird for me to say that I actually liked it. Respected it, perhaps. Impressed by the craft? Definitely. But did I enjoy the experience of watching the film? Not so much.

Director Yorgos Lanthimos refers to his film as a fairy tale, and in many ways, it is indeed that – in the dark, violent, original versions of the Grimm fairytales way. Hell, in case you didn’t pick up on the fairytale connection, Emma Stone’s wardrobe, hair and makeup have her looking like a redheaded Alice in Wonderland through most of the film. However, the old-fashioned tale that Poor Things most resembles is a more sexual variation on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

In this telling of Frankenstein, the mad scientists come out almost being sympathetic, while the “normal” men circling the orbit of the creature turn out to be the actual monsters.

The “creature” here is Bella Baxter (played by Stone). She is the creation of a horribly scarred and absolutely insane (and yet, somewhat empathetic) Victorian scientist named Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), who actually thinks so much of himself that he shortens his first name to simply God. God was for years the subject of his father’s odd, painful experiments in biology and medicine. Now he has taken over the family “business” – living in a mansion surrounded by many of his strange experiments – ducks with dog’s heads, or cats with the heads of geese, and the like.

God finds the opportunity for his ultimate creation by chance one day when he is lingering under a bridge when a pregnant woman throws herself off of it. He knows he could probably save her life, but obviously if she was trying to commit suicide that may not be what she wants. He could try to save her baby, but then it would be an orphan and possibly not survive. So what God does is much more insidious – he takes the brain of the baby and puts it in the skull of the mother, turning her into an infant in a grown woman’s body.

Without giving up too much, we basically watch her grow into her body, going from a blank slate and becoming a smarter, more empathetic and much more sexual being. (Fair warning for people for whom this is a concern: There is a lot of sex and nudity in Poor Things.)

I must say, Poor Things is often extremely funny, and it is just as often cringeworthy and disturbing. Which, of course, is exactly what it is trying to do. So, mission accomplished, I suppose.

Poor Things is the epitome of “you either get it or you don’t” filmmaking. There was a lot of hearty laughter at the screening I was at, so apparently some people did see where they were going with this. I wish I could say I did.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: December 7, 2023.


bottom of page