Her Fair Lady
Poor Things is an interesting new direction for Yorgos Lanthimos
Yorgos Lanthimos has made a name for himself with his combination of abstract unconventional visuals and plotting with biting social commentary. That said, his stories, for as good as they can be, tend to lack a certain warmth and humanity. But now the veteran of the Greek Weird Wave gives us Poor Things, which offers an almost whimsical new direction for his films. This delightfully absurd mixture of Frankenstein and Pygmalion contains all of Lanthimos' style with fish-eyed lenses and blocking with excessive headspace, but also a newfound sense of humanity rather than his signature cynicism.
Set in a fantasy version of late 19th-century Europe, the brilliant but unorthodox surgeon Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) brings another doctor (Ramy Youssef) to his home to study the day-to-day progress of Bella (Emma Stone), a mysterious young woman with the mind of an infant. Bella is to be confined in Baxter's home and observed, but their experiment hits a snag when she insists on running off with a lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) on an adventure to explore the world and humanity.
The film has incredible performances all around, but this is obviously Emma Stone's show. With her combination of wide-eyed bemusement and razor sharp wit, she is perfectly cast as the ultimate fish out of water discovering social etiquette, gender roles, sexual politics, and the often contradictory rules for being human — particularly a woman — all at once. Lanthimos is having his usual sardonic fun at the expense of human society, but Stone's utterly human performance keeps this fantastical story grounded and just believable enough to be relatable.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos // Written by Tony McNamara // Based on the novel by Alasdair Gray // Starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Margaret Qualley, Suzy Bemba, Kathryn Hunter, Vicki Pepperdine, Hanna Schygulla, Jerrod Carmichael, and Christopher Abbott // 141 minutes // Searchlight Pictures // Rated R