Poor Things Review

Poor Things
Poor Things
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Poor Things – a 2021 film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, the man behind The Favourite – is an interesting screen adaptation of Scottish Alasdair Gray’s novel from 1992 that reworks Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with the help of contemporary philosophy. The novel is a collage of many different viewpoints; it is also a patchwork monster, but the movie simplifies this web of conflicting perceptions. By choosing to render its storyline in sequence, Lanthimos and his co-writer Tony McNamara have created one of the most sardonic and hilarious films of this year, which has amazing artwork as well as a great ensemble cast and way too much depth for a standard Frankenstein remake.

It is a thoroughly delightful perversion. In other words, Poor Things delights in sexual deviation by its various odd characters who carry out their uncanny experiments in an anachronistic Georgian England: Updated retro-future style. However, she speaks broken English but occasionally with her creator’s scientific terms which include her father, Godwin Baxter (William Dafoe) a man with equally kind looks and a terrifying character- whose stomach creates burp bubbles through bioengineering mechanism and has strange pets such as pig-headed rooster or swan-like dog.

In Alasdair Gray’s book, there are hints that Godwin may be seen as Victor Frankenstein while he might even be viewed as some sort of surgical creation himself but the film makes it more obvious about him being so without any explicit labeling. The Poor Things movie does not explicitly tell all that its main character bears scars on his face like grid lines which identify him as Frankenstein monster thus loosely tying up Poor Things to Shelley’s gothic novel.

However, it isn’t strictly a sequel but rather treats both the movie itself and its background including Shelley’s history from the perspective of pseudo-sequel status. It spends about an hour in a pyrrhic satirical mode before engaging in its 140 minutes of literary introspection, giving Stone the opportunity to deliver a truly wild performance that, surprisingly enough, assumes more mature tones as her character Bella learns about life. In contrast to the book, Godwin is shown as being only a father figure in relation to Bella and McNamara has created another interesting side character McCandles (Rami Yousef), Godwin’s gentle student who falls for Bella when watching her develop.

Poor Things’s first and most apparent perversion is here. The amount of time she has been in this stunted state of development or the extent to which she has actually regressed when we encounter her is not explained by it. Through this, romance is introduced into the equation by McCandles as well as the comically sophisticated but wild-eyed jealous lawyer Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo). Nevertheless, these concerns are ones that Lanthimos ultimately incorporates into the movie rather than perverting its plot line, but they are presented as perversions of desire in men. Also included here is a reference from Godwin to Bella’s past (which she does not have knowledge about) and how that affects Bella’s relationship with McCandles and Wedderburn; these relationships also demonstrate power play between love and control – two dual elements that become interwoven so intricately and cause Bella to rethink her perspective on life.

Why Poor Things turns out to be such a hoot, despite its gloomy aura at heart, lies in Stone’s eccentric portrayal initially as a giant baby and then later on as an outspoken woman whose unguarded frankness irritates men around her and “decent people” generally. Although there are no real-life comparable terms for describing Bella – since her process of birth amounts to scientific fantasy – it is difficult not to perceive hints of reality through Stone’s characterization of the same, where each statement or observation corresponds with a sharpness (and ignorance).

At first curious like any child experimenting with their sexuality alone until she begins engaging in sexual encounters with other people which she refers to as “furious jumping”. It portrays adolescence metaphorically in every steamy moment of physical delight. In many regards, it becomes a twistedly passionate carnal companion piece for Barbie (or Mattel’s blockbuster seen through some fun-house mirror). On the other hand, Bella’s intellectual journey – which sees her take responsibility for all the world’s concerns as well as anger and despair – seems like the emotional minefields of a young woman in her early twenties who still grapples with who she is and what she stands for. Unfortunately, this also makes for a much more somber back half that runs a tad long before honing its eventual point about constricting cycles of abuse.

Thus, while there is a chronology of Bella’s physical and emotional changes, it deliberately lacks an exact timeframe in order to become more symbolic than realistic. Poor Things thus skirts around the trickier implications of its thesis concerning Bella’s age but instead, it represents lots of lifelong transitions and how society has arbitrary rules especially when it comes to women. The other thing is that these laws are rapidly knocked down by Bella once she starts exploring and indulging her instincts towards loud conversations or uncensored movement (If you’re hoping Poor Things has a dance sequence as wildly entertaining as the one in The Favourite, you’re in luck).

Jerskin Fendrix’s score for Poor Things, however, syncs with the film’s nutty vibe. It is as if Mica Levi’s (Under The Skin) most chilling chords had been stretched to different keys or remixed on a Theremin. Robbie Ryan and Lanthimos achieve this by using wide lenses that border on fisheye when shooting Stone in eccentricity, thus placing us in scenes as if they were viewed through peepholes or caricaturing spaces and faces’ shapes altogether. Poor Things simultaneously contains a great deal of farcicality but also a sense of strangeness beyond words. When Bella begins to explore her surroundings, the film changes from black-and-white to color producing an oversized saturated Jules Verne-like world. Whenever the eyes of a child watch it, each time the camera jumps about space like one.

However, that innocence is short-lived – not due to its blatantly sexual nature but because of what we learn about Bella’s origins which brings out more telling themes from Shelley’s original novel “The Modern Prometheus.”

Lanthimos’ Greek Weird Wave sensibility makes it seem as if he is infusing new blood into the Hollywood comedy. Coming across richly decorated sets and sci-fi backgrounds served up by luxurious settings and ridiculous speeches where you can catch your breath just before you know what will happen next is exactly how I would describe this cult film with Mark Ruffalo caught in its tantalizing grip. However, there are no words to express how delighted I am with Stone whose character goes through so many transformations throughout the movie; she grows up before our very eyes while remaining forever curious and never satisfied with life in any way possible. The idea behind it is decimating human desire down to its basic building blocks and then beautifully constructing them afresh so that we may see ourselves without inhibitions and enjoy freedom.


Poor Things: A Perverse Homage to Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is a hilarious work of absurdism that encapsulates adolescence into a rowdy and funny two-hour package, through the ridiculous story of a resurrected woman on a journey toward sexual, emotional, and intellectual self-discovery. But it’s really Emma Stone who steals the show as Bella Baxter with her bizarrely off-beat performance that ages into something altogether more mature; Ruffalo goes mad playing the opposite, unable to control his playboy antics. However, this film stands out from its literary foundations while being one of the most visually inventive Hollywood comedies in recent times.

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