A Poor Thing Indeed

February 3, 2024 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS | 0 Comments |

Poor Things (Directed by “Yorgos” Lanthimos – 2023)

What do Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” and M. Night Shamalayan’s “The Village” films have in common? They are the latter works of erstwhile promising directors. Lanthimos’s “The Lobster” is fabulous. As is the rightfully feted Night Shamalayan’s “The Sixth Sense”. Original, surprising and engaging works. After that, Shamalayan made the hold-your nose “The Village.” Lanthimos took a step down to the so-so “Killing of a Sacred Deer” and then nosedived. “Poor Things” is twaddle. Sadly, it looks like it’s all over for these two.

“Poor Things” has beguiled critics with its steampunk, big-sleeved art direction. But that’s all there is. The task of the aesthetic is to distract the poor viewer from the tired plot, the thin characters and heavy-handed message. Dr. Godwin “God” Baxter (Willem Dafoe) is a mad scientist of the old kind. (Yes, like Frankenstein, yawn). He creates “Bella”, a monstrous meld of an adult suicide and the brain of her baby. Bella lurches about à la Elsa Lanchester and refers to herself in the third person. There’s no sense to the rate at which, or how, she develops. We are enjoined to see the uninhibited toddler in a woman’s body, which seems counterproductive, given this film’s alleged “feminist” purpose.

Bella wants to be independent, so she goes off with seedy adventurer Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffulo). Ruffulo is too old and soft-centred for this role. Dashing and irresistible he is not. Bella enjoys her independence – being locked in a chest, abducted, dancing like a maniac, working in a brothel – all the great feminist desires. She has already decided that when the fun is over she will go home and marry weedy needy Max (Ramy Youssef). As all good feminists do.

By the time Bella gets home, the viewer is sick and tired of seeing Emma Stone in every kind of see-through outfit, writhing away joylessly. Hitched to a sadist who caused her inner adult to suicide, she escapes and takes over God’s conceit of playing Dr. Moreau.

Stone does well enough with the clumsy script. The viewer cannot, however, say how Willem Dafoe performed because his entire performance is a mass of gruesome facial scar makeup and stomach tubes.  Like Bella herself, “Poor Things” is a ghastly, humourless hybrid, with no sense of timing and no soul.

OK, she dances better than Florence Foster Jenkins


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