The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

“Poor Things” review: A technicolor take on oddity and identity

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Eccentrically curious and undoubtedly crude, “Poor Things” is an odd journey of self-discovery with just enough substance amid the psychedelic style to make it a worthy watch. The adventure that director Yorgos Lanthimos imbues into the film turns a weird movie into a spectacle, even through excessive violence, nudity and distractions. “Poor Things” is ultimately a hedonistic fever dream, aided by a fantastical setting and hilarious performances, making it enjoyable until the very last act. 

The film follows Bella Baxter (Emma Stone), a young woman brought back to life by mad scientist Godwin “God” Baxter (Willem Dafoe). While God attempts to isolate Bella from the world, she yearns for adventure outside of their strange home but only finds heartbreak and harsh truths in the “real” world. 

There is an obvious allusion to “Frankenstein” with Bella as the reanimated creation of a mad scientist. Instead of a creature searching for revenge, our protagonist is on a quest for purpose. Despite the name of the movie, you never pity her. Stone plays her part perfectly, imbuing a weird character with an infectious comedy style. There is an admiration in her naivety, confidence in her curiosity and determination in her journey for answers.

The film starts with the same unnerving quality as older horror movies with the black-and-white cinematography to match. Yet as the audience unravels the fantastical world alongside Stone’s character, psychedelic colors replace the black and white scenes to reveal a fantastical world. 

There is a blatant disregard for reality and time that could be argued as a stylistic choice or perhaps as further insight into Bella’s perspective. Fish eye shots and quick zooms help drive home this visual oddity, creating a fascinating style that guides the movie through its storytelling. Either way, there is beauty in the neon-colored skies and warped landscapes the film traverses.

This humorous absurdity and oddity created by the world-building easily masks the crudeness and gore throughout the film. The only thing rivaling the number of curse words casually thrown around in the film is the number of sex scenes behind every plot point. Even with its occasional obscenity, the dry, unassuming jokes lift it up into something almost palatable. The film’s boldness and refusal to back down from its off-kilter plot and characters turn a cold and frankly uncomfortable movie into a delight.

Only toward the end does the movie begin to lose its cool. After a sudden twist that brings up themes of generational trauma between God and Bella, the film diverts to one last terrible plot point. Here, she struggles between her past and her new identity, ultimately favoring her own independence and autonomy over another controlling villain. This moment of epiphany for Bella does not achieve the grand moment of finality it attempts, and instead only lengthens the plot unnecessarily. 

Still, as the plot unravels, it reveals a questionable meandering through themes of human nature, greed and desire that does not settle on a clear argument about any of those topics. That is, until the very last scene, where God’s creations and companions sit among each other in his garden. The film takes more than two hours to wander through its eccentric plot and experimental design only to land on what appears to be a biblical allusion. While not a bad ending, it fits the movie’s apparent oddity.

Even though the plot can occasionally feel as unsteady as Stone’s comedic and uncoordinated movements while acclimating to her reanimated body, “Poor Things” is a triumph of bold style and brash substance. The film feels like another questioning experiment made to perfectly match Bella’s characterization, both in humor and absurdity. The heartfelt nature of both make seeking out the harsh reality of a technicolor world a worthwhile adventure. 


*This film screened at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival

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