Movie of the Month: POOR THINGS

Poor Things screenshot

by Tony

If you read my last movie review, I mentioned Lily Gladstone was a shoe-in for Best Actress for her role in Killers of the Flower Moon. Well, I am here to eat some crow and admit that I had not seen Emma Stone’s performance in Poor Things. As she was being awarded the Oscar, I decided that I was going to watch it that night and let me tell you, it was blown away! This movie has been out for awhile but I still don’t want to give away too much. I want to save as much of the delight as possible for those who choose to watch it.

The story was twisted. Clearly a playground for a visionary like Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Favourite) to work with. If you’ve seen The Lobster you’ll notice the familiar flavor he brings to the table. It’s odd, quirky, sad, appalling, but still finds a way to delight you by the end of the movie. I thought this movie was genuinely hilarious. I found myself laughing way more than I thought I would. Basically, Bella (Emma Stone), throws herself off a bridge and is fished out of the river by Godwin (Defoe). Turns out, she’s pregnant so Godwin, who Bella calls “God”, takes it upon himself to perform a series of surgeries that removes the unborn child’s brain and places it in Bella’s body essentially making her both the mother and child . Yea, wild..Read More…

Bella is played by Emma Stone and she, to put it lightly, is fully-committed to this role. No doubt this role had to be extremely difficult but she is awesome, plain and simple. She somehow manages to find a way to portray the stages of life from toddler through adulthood without losing the audience. This role is downright crazy for a movie star like Emma Stone to take on. I really can’t remember a star of her caliber doing a movie that asks this much of the star. Spoiler alert, there are quite a few sex scenes. This character has zero shame or fear. Bella is also rapidly acquiring knowledge of herself, people, the world, and life, at times to her detriment, and at times to her benefit. You are watching this character grow up throughout the movie. The journey her character is on is sort of like an R-rated Wizard of Oz. Bella is both exploited and empowered throughout the movie. The world shows her how wonderful and beautiful it can be and also how broken it is. By the end of it, I was left wondering if we are to believe resignation is the path to peace. Can the acceptance of circumstances that life lays at your feet set us free? You decide, but that’s sort of the whole point here.

Screenshot from Poor Things with Emma Stone Willem Dafoe

Godwin is played by Willem Defoe. A disfigured and complicated father-figure responsible for Bella’s (Emma Stone) situation. He’s a mad scientist, frankenstein, surgeon who is overprotective of Bella and doesn’t want the outside world to corrupt her. He’s the dad with a not so subtle God-complex but also a maniacal scientist who wants to see his experiment succeed. So the control he wants over Bella is being fought by his love for her. He’s a bit agoraphobic and given his relationship with his father it’s not difficult to understand why he is so literally damaged. I really enjoyed how different people interpreted this character. Some will say he has no right to do what he did, some will say he did the godly thing by saving the suicidal woman and her baby by performing those morally questionable surgeries but hey, to each their own and that’s sort of the point here.

Mark Ruffalo plays Duncan Wedderburn. A scumbag lawyer completely enamored with Bella upon first sight. He can tell that something is off about her and that she yearns to experience the world that she has been prohibited from by God. Duncan is a slimy opportunistic self-centered butthead who is also downright hilarious. It might be my favorite Mark Ruffalo character. Duncan and Bella end up on a cruise ship and that entire act of the movie is awesome. I found myself completely engrossed and actually realizing that I was having a blast watching this movie. 

The visual style of this movie is intoxicating. The color really puts you in the appropriate mindset. It starts off with Bella, basically, trapped inside by “Godwin” aka “God” (Defoe) as part of her “protection” but as the story moves outside and Bella becomes ahem, um, more experienced, it becomes more colorful. The subtle hints of the story’s underpinnings, if you will, aren’t always immediately obvious but this movie has a way of staying with you long after you finish watching it. My wife and I found ourselves discussing this movie for days, maybe even a week or so after because it made such an impression on us. There are so many different themes that are both above and below the surface. Topics like religion, morality, and women’s rights are obvious but subtle tailings of those themes may slide right past you until you’re having coffee the next day thinking about little details that are inexplicably stuck in your head.

I highly recommend watching this movie with someone. It will be so much more fun discussing it immediately after and even days later. You’ll find different meanings in different facets of the movie and it transforms the movie into an experience.

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