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Poor Things (2024) | Review

By Chess Q

Rating: 4/5

Image by Abcer Abc on Flickr

Poor Things, adapted from the novel of the same name by Alasdair Gray, follows Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) through her macabre Frankenstein-esque medical horror origins as she explores her identity, sexuality and philosophy within a fantastical retro-futuristic steampunk world. The film, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, garnered some controversy surrounding its themes and portrayal of sexuality which only served the morally ambiguous dark comedy the film embraces. Poor Things largely succeeds in building a rich world where its unique characters and comedy take the light. Even with its shortcomings, namely its somewhat excessive runtime, it is a thrilling and exciting film to watch, especially in theatres where you can appreciate the full scope, not only of its cinematography but also its sound and score.

The runtime of the film clocks in at 2 hours and 21 minutes, which is a lot to ask audiences to sit through, and unfortunately, Poor Things doesn’t quite follow through. This can mostly be chalked up to a unintuitive pacing, marked by a bulky beginning and a seemingly unnecessary detour at the end.

The beginning of the film takes on a very ‘artistic’ approach, which is overly directed and devoid of the unhinged character and emotion that the rest of the film is full of. Shot in black-and-white, it’s quite sterile and lacks the kind of energy and humanity that would push the plot forward. But once Bella flies the nest and all of the action starts happening the film is not only paced well but also leans into and takes advantage of the absurdity of the characters and circumstances, indulging in a quite unique humour which is not only engaging, but charming and refreshing in a way. The film is quite emotionally rich and doesn’t take itself too seriously, with over-the-top yet dynamic performances, especially by the likes of Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo. As the pair travels the globe, the audience gets lost in the fun and chaos the characters are having, and quite easily slips into their pacing and great comedic timing. Unfortunately, the film loses a lot of the momentum it builds toward the end with an unnecessary diversion from the original plot of the book, which not only doesn’t develop much on the characters or plot but overworks it in a way. Ultimately, you’re left with that tired feeling that the film could have ended quite nicely on three or four separate occasions but, for some reason, insists on ploughing on.

Image by Luca Sartoni on flickr

The film is beautiful to watch. The cinematography of Poor Things is quite epic and everything on the screen—from the exciting and bold costuming to the phallic windows and fences—seems to be the result of very intentional choices toward creating an immersive world where the story takes place. The score and sound engineering really lend themselves to creating the richness of the film and alone make it worthwhile to see in theatres.

Ultimately, Poor Things was a very exciting film to watch on many levels, from the cinematography to the performances to the unique world-building, more than enough to make up for a little excessive runtime. Poor Things is a cheeky and racy morally ambiguous story packed with juicy comedy and characters, and will challenge and thrill audiences.


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