Poor Things review: Emma Stone is wonderfully weird in this quirky coming of age journey about female desire!

Aishwarya Srinivasan
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Poor Things review

In our Poor Things review we talk about how Emma Stone's performance totally justifies why she won an Oscar today and so much more.

Poor Things review: Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things is based on Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel which is a reimagining of the Frankenstein story. The story here is about how the monster is a surgeon who comes up with rather graphic and really unconventional ways of treating the human body. The surgeon, Dr. Godwin Baxter (William Dafoe) brings a woman who jumped in the river and drowned herself, back to life. He gives her a whole new life, a whole new identity, he calls her Bella Baxter (Emma Stone). He saved her life by swapping her brain with an infant’s which is why while her body is of a fully grown woman, her mental age is of a child’s. To her, the Doctor is all she has ever known now and she calls him ‘God’. 

Her brain is developing and learning things like a child’s mind would. Language is slowly developing, she’s learning how to eat the right way but just like a child she would pee anywhere she feels like or throw tantrums if she doesn’t get what she wants. She is shielded from the outside world but Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef) makes it inside the madhouse of God and Bella. He is given the responsibility of making a note of every single movement of hers. In the course of spending time with her everyday, he falls in love with her and God bethroes Bella to Max. But that is before she figures out how to make herself ‘happy’.

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It is rather delightful to see how Bella views female pleasure as someone who was never taught about it. One fine morning she wakes up finding happiness between her legs and she has to work on it in order to find that happiness. She wants to share the path of finding happiness with everyone in her house but she is told it's frowned upon in ‘polite society’. But she finds her happiness aka masturbates whenever she wants to and she simply can’t get enough of it. She wants to find the same happiness with Max but he refuses to do anything until they are wed. Here’s when Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), a lawyer, makes it into her life and she wants to run off with him on a whirlwind adventure. So he takes her to Lisbon and there they have sex for the first time. She calls it ‘furious jumping’ and ‘tongue play’ for oral sex and she wants to do it all the time. She wonders why people don’t do it more often. 

Bella might seem weird to many because of her ‘special’ brain but her straightforward yet wonderful take on female sex drive is what the crux of feminism should stand on. It is about making your own choices about your own body. Although she lacked the concept of consent in the beginning and she wasn’t taught the same things as we were as girls - ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’, she still learns to make her own choices about who she wants to ‘furious jump’ with. In a wonderful scene where she learns from an elderly woman that she hasn’t been touched in 20 years, she says "I hope you find happiness on your own sometimes". It reassures her! She wants pleasure to be found by every woman just like she does.


Duncan, who asked her not to get attached to him in the course of them having coitus, ironically himself becomes something he loathes the most - ‘the grasping succubus of a lover’. He is helpless after a point to her sexual curiosity and the child-like fearlessness she has before saying something without thinking of the consequences. In the end, when she is in need of money, she even makes the choice to become a prostitute. She found the concept of having sex for money rather intriguing and fitting to her current financial situation. There she learns about things beyond the average male fantasy. She is told that sometimes men like that sex is not pleasurable for the woman, she learns that sometimes it's about dominance and sometimes sex can be traumatic as well. 

Emma Stone delivers a phenomenal performance as the naive yet bold Bella Baxter. Throughout the entire film, it amused me every single time she used an interesting choice of words for physical intimacy. She evolved through her sexual coming of age and she challenged the ways of society so marvelously. She also feels deeply for the poor and wants to make this world a better place to live in. She wants to set off to know how she can do that. Meanwhile you just wouldn’t believe Mark Ruffalo could play a character as cunning as Duncan. In the entire film, Emma’s costumes are so visually stunning. She wants you to know she does not wear a corset throughout the film, but her clothes made by Holly Waddington, are actually a reflection of what stage of development her mind is in. She wears shorts and a blouse with shoes like a toddler but she wears long dresses when she slowly turns into a lady. The film is shot in color when she steps into the outside world, it's shot in black and white when she is inside the house, and there’s a bit of a fisheye lens as well. 

With misogyny clashing with some honest take on feminism in Poor Things, it makes the perfect blend of a masterpiece that makes this crazy and wild film to be Yorgos Lanthimos, and the entire cast and crew’s best work till date! 

Poor Things is currently streaming on Disney+Hotstar!

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