Combustible Celluloid Review - Poor Things (2023), Tony McNamara, based on a novel by Alasdair Gray, Yorgos Lanthimos, Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, Jerrod Carmichael, Margaret Qualley, Kathryn Hunter, Suzy Bemba, Hanna Schygulla, Vicki Pepperdine, Wayne Brett, Tom Stourton, Carminho, Jerskin Fendrix
Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, Jerrod Carmichael, Margaret Qualley, Kathryn Hunter, Suzy Bemba, Hanna Schygulla, Vicki Pepperdine, Wayne Brett, Tom Stourton, Carminho, Jerskin Fendrix
Written by: Tony McNamara, based on a novel by Alasdair Gray
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
MPAA Rating: R for strong and pervasive sexual content, graphic nudity, disturbing material, gore, and language
Running Time: 141
Date: 12/08/2023
IMDB

Poor Things (2023)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bella Smash

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Hulk, Mark Ruffalo, is the co-star of Yorgos Lanthimos's Poor Things, but it's Bella Baxter (Emma Stone), who does all the smashing. She smashes plates, cups, trays, and just about anything else that will break. Bella is the strange experiment of a twisted scientist, Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), who nicknames himself "God," and whose face is a roadmap of scars and ill-matching flaps. She seems like a small child in the body of a grown woman, and, indeed, that's what she is. She matures rapidly, and forms a connection with the doc's new assistant, Max (Ramy Youssef), who is tasked with recording her progress. With the doc's blessing, they plan to marry. But when a conniving lawyer, Duncan Wedderburn (Ruffalo) is called in, he becomes taken with the young lady and whisks her away for an international tour of travel, adventure, and sex. (There's a LOT of sex in this movie, starting from the moment in which Bella learns to pleasure herself, and moving on up to various partners, and a stint as a prostitute.)

It's essentially a feminist piece, rightly arguing against the tendency of men to treat women as objects that are kept and owned. All the men in the story (except Max) try to imprison Bella, to force her to bend to their wills, and she ferociously, fiercely, defiantly, tells them all where to go. Stone is by far the best thing in the movie, throwing her whole self into the role, naked in body and soul. Her baby-speak during the first half is poetry in itself, and her movements are inspired. It's a large performance, perhaps designed to catch the eye of Oscar voters (Lathimos's previous film, The Favourite, was likewise designed), but it's also a great one. (Ruffalo also gets points for his transformation from unctuousness to madness.) Lanthimos stuffs a great deal into Poor Things, from a fabulously crammed set/production design to elaborate costumes and makeup, shock and gore, and even extreme wide-angle lenses and black-and-white cinematography. It's a big, blousy film, overindulgent, and far too long, but it works.

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