Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon Mastodon MOVIES: LFF 2023 - Poor Things - Review

SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers

MOVIES: LFF 2023 - Poor Things - Review

Poor Things is a return to the realm of the weird for Yorgos Lanthimos, whose excellent, if a little safer – by his standards, anyway – The Favourite, earned a best picture nomination in 2018. This is the follow up: a full-on Elephant Man / Frankenstein reskin that introduces us to Emma Stone’s Bella Baxter, who’s brought back to life by Willem Dafoe’s Dr. Goodwin Baxter but lacks the worldliness she needs to thrive. Chance at escape comes from Mark Ruffalo’s Duncan Wedderburn – a slick, debauched lawyer, who helps her escape to Lisbon – but Bella’s first glance at the world isn’t quite what it seems – and there’s a darker underbelly to her initial optimism.

If you thought the outrage over Oppenheimer’s sex scenes was overblown, you’re not going to be ready for the discourse surrounding Poor Things. Its sexual awakening and how sex can be used for power is one of the central themes of the film; Bella discovers she can sell her body to make money and in doing so rapidly becomes one of the smarter people in the film with the knowledge she gains in the process of her discovery of the world. The film itself feels very vital in the sex scene discourse: it shows a variety of bodies, both male and female, on screen – and it’d be hard to imagine Poor Things as a PG-13 movie, it’d certainly be very different.

It’s a real counterbalance of personalities between Stone and Ruffallo – Ruffalo’s Wedderburn has the power at first, as shamelessly horny as he is; yet as the film progresses the dynamic quickly changes: the more knowledge Bella gains, the more she takes control – and Wedderburn is exposed to be the fraud he is. The pettiness that consumes Ruffalo’s character showcases his strength and need to embrace more comedy; the role reversal really signals the change in the heart of the film: initially Stone’s comic relief character is underdeveloped – but intentionally so – she doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to be developed: Lanthimos uses our expectations against us as he twists the script and makes her character climb – it’s a discovery of the world through her eyes and the film makes it clear that she’s still learning. Invention – if there ever was a word, is apt here – invention through deformity.

Social standards and cues are weaponised in high society, and Poor Things deploys them here. The awkwardness of a dining room table where Bella doesn’t confine to social norms puts everyone there under stress, including the audience: it’s uncomfortable to watch people being called out in front of them – yet to maintain this film as something harsh and blunt would be wrong, there’s warmth and humanity here beneath it all.

Poor Things is a movie about experiments. About learning – the discovery of new things. To put it down as a coming of age tale with a demented edge would be wrong: the comedy is terrific and that alone gives it an edge that will have the right audience roaring with laughter – Lanthimos allows everyone to shine; benefiting from an excellent supporting turn from Kathryn Hunter who fits right at home here. Everything in Poor Things is ripe for excess and debauchery – maximalist cinema at its peak. It’s certainly not as accessible as The Favourite but that in itself is a good thing: it’s one of the rare films where you can see sweeping the awards categories the same way Everything Every All At Once did; best actor, best actress, best director, supporting actor, best supporting actress – it’s all here – everyone works their socks off to give us something truly absurd.

In the right hands – it could even score two nominations in one category, both Dafoe and Ruffalo are excellent! Dafoe’s unhinged, controlling but ultimately vulnerable and lonely Dr. Baxter is undone throughout the film like everyone – and as it comes full circle, you can’t help but sit back and admire the brilliance on display.

Sign Up for the SpoilerTV Newsletter where we talk all things TV!


SpoilerTV Available Ad-Free!

Support SpoilerTV is now available ad-free to for all subscribers. Thank you for considering becoming a SpoilerTV premmium member!
Latest News