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Poor Things (2023) Review

The means of adapting a novel into a movie that both honors the source material while welcoming unique creative interpretation is a delicate task that must be measured with care. Director Yorgos Lanthimos had a clear vision in mind when it came to adapting Alasdair Gray's novel of the same title, which satirized both Victorian literature and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. With a novel so peculiar, the cinematic adaptation required an even more bizarre perspective to bring it to life. Lanthimos' Poor Things remains to be a thrilling, unsettling, and deeply memorable interpretation of an even more offputting story.

Emma Stone is truly unforgettable in her most unexpected role yet when considering her screen presence, capturing the deeply uncomfortable nuances of Bella Baxter, a young woman who committed suicide and was re-animated by Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). Most significantly, Baxter is faced with severe cognitive delay, which reverts her behavior to be completely childlike and immature. It's fascinating to see Stone push herself out of her range and into something that's sincerely unnerving to watch. Through this performance, Stone solidifies Poor Things to be one of her most memorable, if not unconventional, roles to date. It's a demonstration of her skill as an artist and welcomes any other strange projects in the future. By all means, Stone's depiction of Bella is as disturbing as it is raveworthy.

Poor Things takes pride in being unusual, and with that oddness, comes artistic liberty. The most distinct aspect of the movie is its decision to drench itself in grayscale and pair that aesthetic with a variety of cinematographic decisions: plenty of fish-eye lens shots and movement with the camera challenge that standards of how large releases are shot. Lanthimos and his creative team's experimentation with visual and audio elements is equally as unexpected when it comes to "traditional" standards in film. A plucky, eerie score accentuates ornate sets and scenes. Shrill string instruments wail out in agony throughout Poor Things, creating a soundscape heavy with anxiety. The choice of a minimalistic soundtrack lets each scene, and every detail in it, linger. Poor Things is beautifully garnished with elaborate costumes, mostly dedicated to Stone's wardrobe. Her gowns deliver a sense of texture to an already-striking film. If the rest of Poor Things is lost on a more prude audience, at least stay for Stone's costume design.

Poor Things can be praised for being a multi-genre accomplishment. Lanthimos grotesquely stitches together explicit sexuality with body horror and off-beat comedy, successfully crafting one of the most out-there films of 2023. It examines an uncomfortable experience with human nature and critiques the behavior of people, whether that conversation is one that audiences want to have or not. While it's not for the squeamish or those who look for tamer fare when looking for their next watch, it's daring in a demented, entertaining, and original way. Poor Things may be unpredictable to those who haven't familiarized themself with the novel, but that wild expressionism is what gives the film its off-kilter personality. Simply put, Poor Things is a greatly imaginative, sincerely twisted, and richly memorable cinematic feast. 9/10.

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