March 12, 2024

Family Movie Night with POOR THINGS

2023 / 142 min
Review by Mr. Bonnie😺
Poor Things is also available on Blu-ray on DVD

In the end, I’m glad I waited as long as I did to watch Poor Things.

Both of my daughters were very interested in seeing it as well, so when it was made available to review, I extended them an invitation. The challenge was picking an evening we were all free and up for a movie. Finally, with the Academy Award broadcasting the next day, I couldn’t wait on them any longer. Since the Oscars are sort of like the Super Bowl for me, it’s important to see as many of the major nominees as possible before the statues are handed out.  

And thank God I ended up watching it alone, because even though both daughters are more or less grown up, I’m still uncomfortable watching movies with them that contain explicit sex or nudity…of which Poor Things has gobs. There are enough naughty bits on display for two Ari Aster movies. 

But like Aster, there’s a twisted rationale behind these scenes, particularly in relation to the themes of female empowerment, sexual liberation and independence. So while graphic and plentiful, I’d stop just short of labeling them gratuitous, though lead actor Emma Stone certainly goes all-in with her character (in more ways than one) and demonstrates a ton of bravery.

Emma cosplays as a croissant.
Now having seen it, did she deserve the Oscar for Best Actress? Perhaps I should reserve final judgment until seeing Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon, but Stone certainly provides a strong case for herself as Bella Baxter, resurrected from the dead by kindly-but-deranged doctor Godwin (Willem Dafoe, in yet another wonderfully eccentric performance). I’m gonna refrain from discussing any more of the plot because I went into the film relatively cold and can attest that much of what keeps Poor Things’ episodic narrative compelling is having no idea what it’s gonna throw at you next (though I will say the whole thing does carry on longer than it needs to).

The film certainly deserved a lot of its other Oscar wins, especially the production design, which is a knock-out. More so than any previous effort by director Yorgos Lanthimos, virtually every shot is an elaborate, imaginative work of surrealist art, alternately oppressive & whimsical, drab & vivid. And even though he didn’t win, Robbie Ryan’s cinematography brilliantly enhances the mood of each scene. I especially liked the use of black & white to reflect Bella’s confinement in Godwin’s house, while her journey of self-discovery is bursting with color. In addition to Stone & Dafoe, Mark Ruffalo and Ramy Youssef are excellent in key supporting roles.

Like every Lanthimos film, Poor Things will be a little too “out there” for some tastes and a twisted breath of fresh air for others. Either way, there hasn’t been another Oscar nominee quite like it. With equal measures of comedy, fantasy, pathos, sexuality and no small amount of cultural commentary, it’s Lanthimos’ most accomplished film.

As for my two girls...they later watched Poor Things on their own. Both liked it, but concurred it wasn't something they needed to experience with Dad.


FEATURETTE - Possessing Beauty: The Making of Poor Things (running 21 minutes, this features interviews with the primary cast & crew).


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