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Film Reviews by Lisa Blanck
Poor Things
| Monday, 12.11.2023, 01:23 AM |   (172 views)

When we are first introduced to Emma Stone's Bella Baxter, she is spitting up her food, stumbling on her feet like a toddler and has little, if any, motor coordination. She has tantrums and breaks things. When she babbles out her few unintelligible words, she manages to refer to her benefactor, Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Defoe) as “God”. Whether she sees him as her God because he provides for her every desire and overlooks her extremely odd, childish behavior, has taken to calling him God because she can't manage to say Godwin, or because he, well, we can't get into that because it would give too much away, matters not.

But make no mistake, this is an Oscar-worthy turn for Emma Stone. Her on-screen transformation from a mewling child living in the body of an adult into the completely unfiltered, unashamed Bella, the belle of Paris, London, Lisbon and Alexandria is astounding.  The men she meets, including the wonderful, crazed casting of Mark Ruffalo as her main suitor, Doug Wedderburn, are completely undone by her.  Wedderburn begins as a slick con-man, and ends discarded and dejected.  

And she cares not a whit. She is completely self-indulgent, but without pretense. And that's why you'll love her and forgive her. Whatever she does, whether it's dancing, drinking or 'furious jumping', she gives it her all. Once she leaves the Baxter home to go on adventures, she continuously creates and recreates herself.

The Baxter home is filled with animals concocted in what can only be described as a Frankensteinian fever-dream. They are 'created' by someone who, himself, resembles a grotesque. 

Dafoe's face is puzzle. That is to say, he's does not look 'puzzled' but his face resembles a puzzle whose pieces have been forced together, the edges all askew. He belches noxious gas bubbles that actually float. Duckdogs, chickendogs, pigdogs, the gardens are filled with beautiful flowers and a cacophony of truly monstrous creatures. Discord reigns within the walls of the Baxter home.

To earn his living, Dr. Baxter is, in fact, an eminent scientific anatomist in London, giving lectures to students of the bodily sciences. In his scientific life at home, Dr. Baxter has also pushed the boundaries of what is known, which, according 

to him, is the only way to live.  The rooms in the house appear to have padded walls, suggesting mental psychosis. Much of the beginning of the film is shot through a fish-eye lens, further unbalancing the audience.

Even as a child, Belle is unabashedly sexual, living only for the pleasure of the senses, and that does not change as she matures. You will gasp at the discomfort which others are forced to endure. And cheer when Belle strips away their pretentious way of living.

The visuals of Poor Things are a Terry Gilliam film on  steroids, with giant colorful blimps, though Gilliam had  nothing to do with this film, except as Director Yorgos Lanthimos' obvious homage to Gilliam's work.

So what happened to Bella that placed her in the hands of Dr. Baxter? Is she the unwilling victim of a post-modern Prometheus or does she grow to surpass his greatest dream? Go find out for yourself. You'll either love it or hate it. But pity Bella not a bit. She is 100% her own woman, at time when women struggled to find their voice, their place in society. Which, on reflection, hasn't actually changed enough in 150 years.

Poor Things is one of the most original, outstanding screenplays of 2023.

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor and Movie Reviewer for In  Her background includes 30+ years of digital editing for WESH2 News and WKMG News.  She also edits on-air promotional spots for Matter Of Fact, the number one nationally syndicated news and information program.  For more than 30 years she has covered the Florida Film Festival and the World Peace Film Festival, with additional experience in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events at MTV Networks.  She was previously a columnist for the Focus In Newspaper and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida.  

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