instagram logo
twitter logo
rss logo
rss logo
Share

Poor Things is a Rich Experience


ff words logo
ff words logo
ff words logo
ff words logo
ff words logo

By: Isaac P. Ale
January 16, 2024

Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in Poor Things Poor Things [2023]

Film

Yorgos Lanthimos returns to the big screen once again for his first feature film since his critically acclaimed 2018 film, The Favourite. Now, five years later Lanthimos has once again teamed up with Emma Stone to create the wildly inventive Poor Things.

Prior to Lanthimos' partnership with Stone, he made a pair of films with Colin Farrell, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Both were similar in their overarching style, consisting of deadpan delivery and a slow burn of thematic resolution. But now coming off the heels of The Favourite it appears as though Lanthimos has shifted into a style reminiscent of Victorian period pieces. He's not only tinkered with his visual elements, leaning harder into the fisheye lens and the strange perspective it provides, but also his themes. The Favourite and Poor Things no longer revolve around consequences in a male point of view but almost entirely focus on the female experience, with a strong emphasis on sexual awakenings.

Sure, The Favourite had a sharp two-way "political" battle between Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone's characters, but it all boiled down to who would win Queen Anne's (Olivia Colman) love. Or, just her sexual favors without so much the emotional attachment.

Poor Things not only incorporates the themes of a woman's sexual awakening/agency, but Lanthimos takes one step further into his wild laboratory of visuals. Combining aspects of the Victorian period, steampunk sci-fi, and psychedelia together results in an almost Frankenstein-ish setting that is as strange, as it is wonderful to look at. Mirroring Willem Dafoe's Dr. Godwin Baxter, who has various experiments of animals melded together such as the head of a pig on a chicken, the visuals of the film are rich in color, contrast and whatever you call it when you think you're tripping on acid.

In this wild world, we follow Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) who was once a woman in despair, eventually committing suicide. However, Dr. Godwin found her body and brought her back to life through some rather odd means. The only side effect being she had the brain of an infant in the body of an adult, and needed to relearn how to be a member of polite society again. Stone has often been an excellent actress, checking off every box you would could imagine, but in Poor Things she manages to crank it up to whatever the highest setting is. But go past that, by a lot. Her physical acting is simply stupendous. Her ability to physically act as though she has no meaningful control over her limbs without being reductive is something you can't take for granted.

As she progresses rapidly, learning how to walk and move, she begins to yearn for more of the world and for more adult experiences. The latter two acts of the film consist of Bella running off with Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) a womanizing lawyer that is drawn to Bella's sexual appetite. In conjunction with Bella's exploration of the world and all that humanity has to offer, or take away, she has a full on sexual rebirth, starting with Duncan. Once again, Stone is unfathomably great but where has this Mark Ruffalo been all my life? After seeing his performance here I am fully convinced having him locked up in Marvel movies as an underdeveloped and underutilized character has starved the world of his presence in strange projects like this. I didn't know he had this type of role in him! He's simply sensational.

Emma Stone as Bella Baxter in Poor Things Poor Things [2023]

The film dragged a little at some points of Bella's adventures, even dipping into the realm of pretentious virtue-signaling at times. As Duncan begins to fall for Bella, a feeling she does not reciprocate, he takes it upon himself to trap her on a cruise where she has no choice but to be stuck by his side. Themes of toxic masculinity and female sexual repression aside, Bella meets a young cynic named Harry Astley (Jerrod Carmichael) who teaches her various life lessons like social structure, money is the root of all evil, and so on. At one point Bella is so distraught at the concept of economic suffering, she gives away all of Duncan's money to help the poor. While this stage of character growth is still applicable for someone relearning everything about the world it felt out of place, sandwiched between stages of Bella's journey. The primary themes of Bella's arc are her understanding of sex both inside and outside the confines of polite society, and how that guides her understanding of the world. Straying outside of that idea for a quick mention of money being evil simply felt like an aside that wasn't wholly necessary.

On top of Bella's journey is a score of strings by first time feature composer Jerskin Fendrix that can be grating at times. Dissonant strings with the incessant plucking of chords provides an uneasy sound to pair with the oddities on screen. But the rapturous finale, along with Bella's conclusion, combine to provide an absolutely euphoric end that can't be appreciated enough.

Not only did the cast provide top level performances, along with Lanthimos' exquisite direction, but writer Tony McNamara (and Alasdair Gray whose book it was based on) wrote one hell of a script. Minus a couple pacing issues I mentioned earlier the script is crisp, funnier than hell while also delivering the thematic premise in an interesting fashion. Lanthimos' twisted vision results in a wonderfully unique film that is entertaining, poignant, and once again, let's Mark Ruffalo cook the way one is supposed to cook.

Froth

Being such a wonderfully strange film, I knew that Poor Things needed to pair with some local bizarre vibes. Bizarre Brewing right here in Seattle turned out to be up to the task! Seeing as Poor Things focuses on a twisted, more mature allegory of Alice in Wonderland I thought Bizarre Brewing's Looking Glass World would be a delightful fit. A West Coast pale ale that is light on its feet, while still packing a great hoppy taste. Some of that is contributed via Simcoe, McKenzie and Centennial hops but the bulk of it is from a wonderful finisher of dry hopping. At 5.5% ABV the Looking Glass World doesn't pack too much of a punch, instead relying on its flavor profile and lightness to bring a refreshing and delicious pairing to Lanthimos' latest film.

Join Our Oscars Contest!

About UsOscarsContact UsStoreTaproom
instagram logo
twitter logo
rss logo
rss logo
Subscribe for updates!