Frankenstein is a story that most moviegoers are familiar with. It’s been told and retold countless times over the years, with some adaptations being better than others. Now, visionary director Yorgos Lanthimos provides what may just be the most unique take on the material to date with Poor Things. The results are a bit surprising, but worthy of your attention… if you’re at least 18 years of age.
Poor Things follows Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) in a whimsical take on the Victorian era. She was created by Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), with the two effectively serving as Dr. Frankenstein and his monster in the film. Adding to the festivities is Godwin’s assistant, Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef), and Bella’s gentleman caller, Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo).
Bella begins the movie with the mind of a child, but is a quick learner as she grows throughout the film. This allows for child-like exploration during the first act of the film, then a proper realization of what the world actually is during the second act, and finally Bella coming into her own during the third and final act. Emma Stone presents a masterclass of acting as she convincingly conveys Bella at each of these stages in life.
The ensemble cast as a whole deliver Oscar-worthy performances, with each adding a necessary element to the film. However, it’s the many scenes featuring Bella and Duncan that are likely to draw the most attention. Not only is there a fair amount of intercourse and nudity during these scenes, but Ruffalo transforms Duncan in a similar but opposite way to Bella’s transformation. While she becomes more of an adult, Duncan’s mental state devolves into something more akin to a child. The contrast adds a much needed human element to the proceedings.
Lanthimos creates a world that does well to complement the characters that inhabit it. While this is meant to be an imaginative take on the real world, with each location feeling familiar, they’re almost like set pieces in a Broadway show. Each new location is a world of its own, coming to life with vibrant colors and unique inhabitants as Bella explores her new surroundings.
The only aspect of the film that falters a bit is toward the end. As Bella becomes an adult, the mystery and intrigue are no longer there. She comes into her own, but at the same time what has fueled most of the film is suddenly gone. It’s at this point that the movie no longer offers a fantastical look at the world, leaving only a deep dive into humanity, which isn’t quite as entertaining.
If you can look past the sexual nature of the film, there’s a deep and involved look at humanity. Lanthimos explores almost every aspect of humanity, but does so in a way that’s entertaining, if a bit raunchy. This is not a film for those who abhor sexual acts, but if that doesn’t bother you, Poor Things is easily one of the best films of the year.
About Poor Things
Synopsis: The incredible tale about the fantastical evolution of Bella Baxter; a young woman brought back to life by the brilliant and unorthodox scientist, Dr. Godwin Baxter.
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Tony McNamara
Starring: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe
Runtime: 2 Hours, 21 Minutes
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.