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The 500 Club: Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things”

A filmmaker who has an appetite for the Greek Weird Wave movement in cinema, Yorgos Lanthimos is known for his works The Lobster (2015) and The Favourite (2018), which are two films that had received outstanding nominations from the Academy Awards upon their release. On December 8th, he released Poor Things. The film initially premiered on September 1st at the 80th Venice International Film Festival, which was prized with the prestigious accord of the Golden Lion. Upon its release, the film is already set up with seven Golden Globe nominations, praising the work for its aptitude toward science fantasy when interlinked and paired with black comedy. 

The film is led by the delightfully strange Bella Baxter (played by Emma Stone), who under the wing of Dr. Godwin Baxter (played by Willem Dafoe), who she refers to as “God”, was brought back to life after she had attempted suicide after finding out she was pregnant. Godwin switches out her brain with the brain of her unborn-child, which results in Bella having an infant-like mind. With themes of experimentation, the film easily positions itself as something that reminds us of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but instead if under the mold of Barbie. This is as we follow a resurrected woman in desire and curiosity to explore the world in the hopes of finding and reuniting with herself through the discovery of life and existence’s means.

Image via The Los Angeles Times

Liberated and free, Bella goes on an expedition through Lisbon, Alexandria, Marseille, and later on Paris alongside Duncan Wedderburn (played by Mark Ruffalo), who is one of her suitors next to Max McCandles (played by Ramy Youssef). In Bella’s ventures, she learns about such concepts like socialism, in which she grasps a new approach toward living, unfettered and unconfined by the various areas of the societal hierarchy. While being away, Godwin takes on Felicity (played by Margaret Qualley), who is under similar circumstances to Bella.

However, Bella’s crusade soon comes to an end as she needs to return home after being alerted that Godwin is apparently dying. She goes back home, and plans to marry McCandles. This plan is interrupted by the abrupt entrance of her former husband from her past life, General Alfie Blessington (played by Christopher Abbott) who entraps her in his mansion and demands her to subject and submit herself to his powers. Bella finds a way to escape him and afterward returns to Godwin who passes away while in the support of Bella and McCandles. 

The film is tenderly poetic as it humors its ever-profuse introductions to metaphors and symbolic allegories to the idea of living life within one’s rules, choices, and control. Bella Baxter re-enters life in the ways she wishes and wants. In Bella’s words, “It is the goal to improve, advance, progress, grow.” Madame Swiney (played by Kathryn Hunter) in an earlier scene describes Bella as “a woman plotting her course to freedom.” 

“Poor Things” is currently playing at FilmScene in Iowa City, as of January 1st, 2024.

The 500 Club seeks to provide concise film reviews and criticism at around a cool 500 words for your viewing pleasure.