'Poor Things' Is a Beautiful Film Despite an Inconsistent Plot

Ulises Duenas


Poor Things (directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and written by Tony McNamara) manages to draw you in with a great cast, amazing cinematography, and a fearless approach to its storytelling. Even though it starts strong with a lot of promise, it doesn’t stay dynamic enough to remain interesting to the end. Even though the film is mainly a black comedy, it feels as though something is missing to make the drama truly pop.


Emma Stone plays Bella Baxter, a woman who’s been brought back to life by the scientist, Godwin Baxter, played by Willam Dafoe. Bella’s mind is like a lump of unformed clay. She struggles with basic conversation and motor functions but matures quickly and yearns for adventure. Godwin is like a mix of Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Moreau, an eccentric, madman of great ambition and dubious morals. Bella and Godwin’s dynamic as characters make for a lot of great, funny scenes in the first chunk of the movie. Stone does a great job of showing how awkward and new to the world Bella is without coming off as overly dry or wacky. 



Most of Bella’s journey towards adventure consists of sexual exploration. What starts as natural curiosity becomes a frequent hobby for her, and it’s interesting to see how her relationship with sex changes as her character does. Despite the frequent fornication scenes, it’s not overly gratuitous and most of the scenes are also used to fuel the comedy of the film. Stone approaches the scenes with a surprising fearlessness, and that confidence is what makes the scenes necessary for the story.


Bella’s character is interesting because as she learns more about the world, her attitude shifts from bright-eyed naivete to overly angsty to cynical, before finally finding some level of contentment. While her character goes through a decent amount of evolution, the overall plot still suffers from a slow pace and lack of a real hook. By the time the first 90 minutes of the movie went by, I was wondering what else the plot could introduce to keep things interesting. Most of it is an exploration of Bella’s character and her interactions with the various men in her life who are trying to impose some kind of control over her. Even then, the movie isn’t really a character study either, so it relies on comedy to fill the gaps. It makes me wonder if this would have worked better as a miniseries than a movie. 



The most interesting aspect of the whole film is arguably its visual design and just the general aesthetic of the film. The setting is like a mix of Victorian London with a steampunk world and traditional sci-fi setting. Many shots in the movie are fantastic eye-candy and combined with the menacing, intrusive score, the end product is both beautiful and unsettling. It’s something that words won’t do justice to, and it makes the whole movie worth watching.


There’s no denying that Poor Things is one of the most unique films to be released in the past decade. It deserves praise for not taking the easy way out and going for pure shock value with its mix of dark humor and sexual themes. Despite all the things it has going for it, the plot still falls short of all the other fantastic elements in the film.



Author Bio:

Ulises Duenas is a senior writer and contributing film critic at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine


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