Poor Things Review: A Wild Exploration Of The World With Wonderful Performances

Warning Poor Things Spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution. 

Yorgos Lanthimos becomes more brilliantly unhinged with each film. I attended an early screening of Poor Things at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival and couldn’t wait for more people to see it. It’s such a unique funny and depraved film that I excitedly awaited the discourse, especially around the film’s frank discussion on sex and sexuality.

Poor Things is not a shy movie.

Instead, it embraces sex in a bold and frank way. However, it also mainly treats it as a source of comedy, and something to discuss and debate. In particular, Bella eventually begins a life of prostitution. Her sexual pleasure becomes more of a transaction source.

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

Despite the negative connotations often associated with prostitution, the film doesn’t have the same judgment. It doesn’t glorify it, but it doesn’t shame it either.

The film almost eliminates the romanticism associated with the act and instead treats it as a natural part of development.

The bold sex scenes may strike many viewers, but it just feels like a starting point for the film’s exploration of the gift of learning and development.

Bella’s journey follows her baby brain to a full scholar brain. Emma Stone called Poor Things a romantic comedy, but not in the traditional sense. It’s a love story between Bella and the world. She is 100 percent right.

The movie is about Bella learning from the world and falling in love with it. Her development isn’t just intellectual, but emotional. She learns how the world works and things such as empathy, grief, pleasure, and sadness.

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

Because of her accelerated development, she eliminates the fear of emotions. Unlike many, she sees them as vital to becoming a human. They aren’t something to fear but embrace and love.

She experiences things such as sadness but she doesn’t fear it like many, but sees it as just part of the natural cycle of life.

Poor Things is a clever movie with cleverer performances. Mark Ruffalo’s Duncan and Ryan Gosling’s Ken are probably the biggest himbos of 2023. They’re both slightly stupid and terrible. Ken redeems himself, but Duncan remains awful.

This makes him one of the most pathetic villains in recent film history but in a fun way.

Now, a truly scary villain is Alfie, played by Christopher Abbott. Abbott only has a few scenes and steals each one of those limited minutes. He conveys everything you need to know about Alfie so quickly.

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

Lanthimos trademark frank dialogue is on display again in Poor Things and it works best when Willem Dafoe delivers his lines as Dr. Baxter. He expertly captures this strange but brilliant man.

He’s a mad scientist sort of character with a heart. Ramy Youssef’s Max brings some earnestness to the ensemble. Max is likable because he seems so pure, sweet, and simple.

You know he’s in a little over his head with Bella and Dr. Baxter but that adds to their dynamic. You kind of need his type of character to balance everything.

He’s the most human and realistic character in Poor Things.

Now, let’s talk about Emma Stone. She fully embraces the strange Bella. It reminds us of her prowess with comedy.

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

The film works because of the entire Poor Things cast, but Stone as the lead really cements this film as one of the best of 2023. She commits to her character and makes her feel very distinct even as she’s learning and fully defining herself.

Poor Things is beautifully shot, has gorgeous costumes, a fun script, and amazing performances.

 Poor Things is available to stream on Hulu.

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