Certainly, Emma Stone showcases her singing and dancing talents, but in the eccentric “Poor Things,” she gleefully entertains as she childishly clatters utensils on a dinner table, indulges in pastries, and discovers passionate moments in a French bordello.
Teaming up once again with “The Favorite” director Yorgos Lanthimos, the Oscar-winning actress brings to life this wonderfully peculiar Victorian-era coming-of-age narrative. Adapted by Tony McNamara (“The Great”) from Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel, the film, a dark comedy full of lust (★★★½ out of four; rated R; in theaters Friday), offers a fantastical, feminist twist on Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”
It delves into themes of women’s liberation, sexual awakening, and burgeoning empathy, blending whimsy, grand adventure, and mad science in a captivating exploration.
Godwin Baxter (played by Willem Dafoe), a disfigured Scottish surgeon, enlists his student Max (portrayed by Ramy Youssef) to meticulously document the progression of his latest experiment.
Referred to as God, the doctor has successfully reanimated a woman named Bella Baxter (played by Emma Stone), endowing her with the brain of an infant.
Bella’s mental age requires time to synchronize with her physical form, resulting in her toddling movements and uttering “ba” instead of “bye” when Max first encounters her. In a peculiar turn of events, God allows Bella to engage in unconventional activities, such as gleefully experimenting with a corpse by wielding a scalpel on eye sockets and exclaiming, “Squish!”
An overly cautious paternal figure, God restricts Bella from venturing outdoors, which clashes with her growing desire for independence. The scientist persuades Max to propose to Bella, under the condition that they reside in God’s extravagant estate, amidst peculiar hybrid creatures.
However, Bella, exploring newfound pleasures in self-discovery, encounters the charming attorney Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo). He entices her to embark on an international adventure before committing to marriage.
Duncan and Bella kick off their journey in Lisbon, where, despite enjoying the passionate encounters she terms “furious jumping,” Bella grows weary of her pseudo-beau’s alpha-male behavior. Opting for independence, the matured woman explores the delights of pastries and dance on her own.
Their next destination is a cruise ship, where Bella confronts the harsh realities of human cruelty. The discordant couple eventually arrives in Paris, where Bella decides to part ways with the arrogant attorney and takes up a new profession as a prostitute. In the face of Duncan’s anger over her career choice, she defiantly asserts, “We’re our own means of production.”
The most entertaining aspect of “Poor Things” is observing the contemporary-minded Bella emerge as an unfiltered, unstoppable force of nature in a patriarchal era.
She disrupts the lives of all the controlling men around her, whether well-intentioned or domineering. In a revealing final act, Bella emphatically asserts that she will never allow herself to be confined, underlining her unwavering determination.
Stone’s remarkable skill in accessing that emotional depth, beginning from an infantile state, is extraordinary (and positions her as a frontrunner for yet another Best Actress Academy Award). The moment when Bella loses her virginity serves as a pivotal turning point – the film even shifts from black-and-white to vibrant color amid the passionate encounter. Through both her physical performance and line delivery, Stone dynamically transforms this refreshing character with each new experience.
She garners exceptional backing from Dafoe, whose delightfully intricate doctor showcases a “Frankenstein”-inspired patchwork body stemming from parental mistreatment. Ruffalo, a comedic standout, skillfully portrays the boorish and exceedingly irritating Duncan.
Kathryn Hunter brings a peculiar charm to the eccentric Madame Swiney, the brothel owner who sees Bella as both an individual and a commodity. Christopher Abbott makes a noteworthy entrance later in the film as Alfie, another individual vying to assert control over Bella.
Navigating the delicate boundary between humanity and monsters, McNamara’s script crackles with both humor and nuance as Bella ultimately returns home to confront loved ones and her past.
“Poor Things” stands out as a remarkable technical achievement, featuring eye-catching costumes, Jerskin Fendrix’s fittingly eccentric score, impressive production design, and a style reminiscent of both Terry Gilliam and Stanley Kubrick, infused with Lanthimos’ signature weirdness.
Whether delving into off-kilter romance in “The Lobster” or embracing slapstick period farce in “The Favourite,” Lanthimos consistently blends contemporary themes with intellectual inventiveness. As Swiney remarks, “A woman plotting her course for freedom: How delightful.”
And Stone’s portrayal ensures that it’s a truly memorable experience.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Emma Stone
Q1: Who is Emma Stone?
A1: Emma Stone is an American actress born on November 6, 1988, in Scottsdale, Arizona. She gained widespread recognition for her roles in various films and has become one of Hollywood’s most talented and versatile actresses.
Q2: What are some of Emma Stone’s most notable films?
A2: Emma Stone has appeared in several successful films, including “Easy A,” “The Help,” “Birdman,” “La La Land,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” series, “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” and “The Favourite,” among others.
Q3: Has Emma Stone won any awards for her performances?
A3: Yes, Emma Stone has received numerous accolades for her acting, including an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in “La La Land” (2016). She has also won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award, among others.
Q4: When did Emma Stone start her acting career?
A4: Emma Stone began her acting career in local theater productions before making her television debut in the VH1 reality show “In Search of the New Partridge Family” in 2004. Her breakthrough in the film industry came with the comedy “Superbad” in 2007.
Q5: What is Emma Stone’s full name?
A5: Emma Stone’s full name is Emily Jean Stone.
Q6: Is Emma Stone related to musician Emma Stone?
A6: There is no known connection between Emma Stone, the actress, and any musician by the same name. It’s possible that there may be individuals with similar names, but they are not the same person.
Q7: What are some interesting facts about Emma Stone?
A7: Emma Stone is known for her distinctive raspy voice, which adds to her unique charm. She changed her birth name, Emily, to Emma because there was already an Emily Stone in the Screen Actors Guild. Additionally, she is an advocate for various social and environmental causes.
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