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“Poor Things” Review: Yorgos Lanthimos’ Latest Film is the Ultimate Auteur Cinema on Womanhood

“Poor Things” Review: Yorgos Lanthimos’ Latest Film is the Ultimate Auteur Cinema on Womanhood

Is “Poor Things” worth all the hype?

 

 

On February 8, 2024, Disney Studios PH, in collaboration with Ayala Mall Cinemas, invited a select few for a special advanced screening of Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest masterpiece, Poor Things. The latest critical darling, which has continuously swept major awards and continues to gain tons of accolades, takes its viewers on a journey of whimsical fantasy and profundity. Showcasing the signature Lantimos flair, Poor Things showcases the beauty, humor and introspection of what it means to be a woman.

 

This marks the second collaboration between the Oscar winning actress Emma Stone and director Yorgos Lanthimos; both previously worked on 2018’s The Favourite–which garnered Stone’s second Academy Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 2019. 

 

This time, Stone not only took the driver’s seat as the film’s lead actress, she also produced this film together with Lanthimos, Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe. In spite of the burden of responsibility, it did not stop Stone from delivering a career-defining best performance in her role as the loveable and cunning Bella Baxter. 

 

 

Stone bounces alongside some of the most recognizable Hollywood actors, Willem Defoe and Mark Ruffalo. She’s joined, too, by Christopher Abbott, Margaret Quailey and breakout comedian Ramy Youssef. The Poor Things ensemble cast delivers an absolute movie-going experience filled with humor and quotable quips; with Ruffalo having one of the most memorable roles—rising to the task of playing a fragile “peacock of a man” that bounces well with Stone’s naïveté & tactless deadpan delivery. 

 

The world presented in the film is a modern surrealist take on 1800s Europe, splashed with steampunk machinations, gothic absurdity (referencing the Victorian Era’s inclined fascination with death and human anatomy) and abstract splashes of pastels and high contrasting colors adorning sky backdrops. One can’t help but feel like they’re stepping into an actual dream.

 

Now to discuss the plot: Poor Things is simply about life—specifically what it’s like to live through life as a woman. How we are all agents of the life we choose to lead, in all aspects of it. From physical and cognitive growth and development to the search for meaning in a world that lures us to existentialist conundrums of the soul. 

 

We view life through the eyes of Bella Baxter. Her questions about societal constructs are questions that have stood the test of time, as all of us—to this day—still have them lingering in our thoughts. What is polite in polite society? Why should we “keep it in our mouths” if it is revolting?  Are all humans inherently cruel? Why do some of us sleep on comfortable beds, while ==babies are left for dead in a ditch? Why can’t everyone have the liberty to choose or decide for themselves? Why do humans have to work for money, yet we are left to feel empty inside no matter what we purchase? And really, who are we? 

 

These are questions that Bella attempts to find answers to during her journey in discovering the world outside of God’s (played by Willem Defoe) house. These are questions that we all have as human beings; and to question ourselves and others is to question our own purpose and role in this journey we call life. 

 

 

Bella Baxter’s natural curiosity and inherent optimism are her main guiding force in traversing the world. In conjunction with the film's message, she aims to inspire and challenge us to view the world through her rose-colored lenses. To never lose our optimism, innate curiosity and the hopefulness we all had when we were young (before life took its toll on us). By doing so, we are helped in navigating a world that seems doomed with negativity, violence, pain and anxiety. 

 

Similar to Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (another 2023 blockbuster film), Poor Things also explores the topics of female agency, experience and worth. By having men constantly try to objectify, control, belittle, shut-out and take ownership of Bella, she defied each and every one of them by standing up for herself and taking control of her own existence. And in doing so, she leaves female viewers the message that your body is yours alone, that only you have the agency to decide and control your life and that a woman’s worth is not defined by the perceptions of men.

 

If I didn’t make it clear enough, Poor Things is a cinematic masterpiece and a milestone achievement in the auteur cinema niche. It was very funny—absurdly funny. From Stone’s physical comedy and shameless opinions to Ruffalo’s hysterics and Youssef’s comedic timing, you’ll have a great time as you laugh out loud.

 

 

Similar to how Dafoe’s Godwin Baxter charges Bella with enough electrical current to reanimate her, I cannot deny how Poor Things might polarize certain audiences. People like myself who are fans of Lanthimos' works will feel right at home with the narrative and execution of this film. The director daringly tackles controversial topics that might be jarring to casual movie viewers (especially—gasp—the prudish ones); but keep in mind that is exactly what he envisions. Lanthimos has gone on the record to state how he wants his films to gain a “reaction” from his audience, whether good or bad. He wants people talking, and Poor Things will keep people talking for a long time to come.

 

 

Words Charles Boswell

Art Alexandra Lara

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