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‘Poor Things’ Movie Review

Mar 18, 2024 | Admit One

Poor Things is a grotesquerie, and that is meant in the best way possible. Paying homage to Gothic horror like The Island of Doctor Moreau or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, it features monstrous constructions of sewn-together animals and medical experiments. However, Poor Things approaches its subject matter through a comedic lens, viewing the world from the perspective of the ‘monster’ as she looks out at the world in wonder.

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Trailer:

Release Date: December 8, 2023
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Studio: Searchlight Pictures
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
IMDb: 8.1/10
Where to watch: Hulu, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube

Emma Stone plays Bella Baxter, the creation of mad—but good-hearted—scientist Godwin Baxter (aptly nicknamed “God”) who, in true Frankenstein fashion, has brought a dead woman back to life by surgically implanting her unborn daughter’s brain into her skull.

If you find that description off-putting, it’s likely the rest of this film isn’t for you, as the imagery, cinematography, and even the film’s score builds on the surgical and scientific motifs of the character’s origin to impart a constant sense of unease, one which our characters seem oblivious—or perhaps acclimated—to.

This unconventional ‘family’ is wholly immersed in the scientific and anatomical. Yet, as a newly-formed being with no notions of right or wrong, Bella has only the raw moment and her reaction to it. It is her status as a tabula rasa—a blank slate—that allows the film to comment on our present societal norms, asking who we all might be without the external expectations that were forced upon us by family and society.

After Bella makes some startling discoveries about life in a body, she embarks on a voyage to experience all the world has to offer, and the film becomes a whimsical journey through self-identity and—this must be stated up front—sexuality. The film brings the European sensibilities of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Favourite) to this American cast, who bare all in a fearless depiction of intimacy that borders uncomfortably close to pornographic at times.

Fortunately, the film’s unique take on finding one’s identity in the strictest of “polite societies”—the Victorian era—allows this extremely raw depiction of human sexuality to stand juxtaposed against the absurdity of the time period—one that has uncomfortable echoes to the world we live in today. In this way, the film is a sendup of how we collectively deny the raw truths of our existence, burying them under proper attire and polite dinner conversation… but also a celebration of those who break from these norms and forge their own path.

Ultimately, Poor Things is a film that demands your attention. It’s a surreal and off-putting voyage through a world that borders incredibly close to our own; a dark fairytale set in a quirky, out-of-tune world that would make Tim Burton proud. First, it delights, then it shocks, and finally, it reveals deeper truths through an unconventional narrative of self-actualization, instantly making Bella Baxter a true feminist icon for the modern era.


About our Admit One Author

Isaac Albert Frankel

Isaac Frankel is a freelance writer and content creator specializing in reviews and analysis of cinema, interactive media, and mythological storytelling. He was raised in Prescott, AZ, wrote his first non-fiction book in 2013 after graduating from Tribeca Flashpoint College with a degree in Game & Interactive Media Design, and currently produces content for the YouTube channel: Off Screen.

More of his work and current projects can be found at www.isaacafrankel.com.