The race for best actress Oscar is a tight one, so it's important to understand that Stone really did stuff herself for her role in Yorgos Lanthimos's movie.Stuart Heritage, The Guardian, 26th February 2024
The rise to international acclaim of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos is a lovely, heartwarming, feelgood tail filled with incest, miscarriages, filicide, blindings and rough sex.
There is a set career path for the breakout foreign-language director seeking global attention, and it is one of compromise. First you make a splash at Cannes, Venice or Berlin, and then discerning Americans come calling with promises of artistic integrity. There is, though, hust this one little job they'd like you to do for them first.
Not for Lanthimos. No Harry Potter instalments for him. Apart from Mexican Alejandro G. Inarritu, I can't think of another foreign director who has engage with the Hollywood system and got to do just about anything they want to.
Lanthimos came to prominence with Dogtooth, a film about an industrialist who keeps his children trapped within their compound, convincing them the world outside is full of terrors.
Once on the English-language circuit, he had turned out a run of films that are weird in their own individual way: the deadpan theatrical absurdism of The Lobster; the dry modern Greek tragedy of The Killing Of A Sacred Deer; the demented costume drama of The Favourite. The latter's box-office and award-season success, winning Olivia Colman an Oscar, has given him the clout to push further and harder, and with Poor Things he goes further and harder than almost any mainstream film has before.
For his adaptation of Alasdair Gray's 1992 novel, he's conjured up an alternate, steampunk version of the late Victorian era. Dr Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) is a hideously patched-together mad surgeon, both Dr Frankenstein and the monster, living in a mansion filled with various hybrid animals of his concoction. His latest creation is Bella Baxter (Emma Stone), the body of a suicide reanimated with the brainn of her unborn baby. The story is Bella's unsentimental education; her rapid journey from the unfettered demands of an infant to an adult comprehension of existance. Driven by her constant and unrestrained desire to learn and experience, she runs off with moustachioed cad Mark Ruffalo to explore this hyper-stylised Victorian world.
If you have the stomach for the blood, surgery and debauchery, Poor Things is all you could ask for. Just about every scene is a wonder for the eyes (the art directionand costume departments have worked miracles). The uninhibited, relentlessly sexual, unashamedly tactless Bella is an indentifiable and hilarious protagonist. Who doesn't love her when she seeks to excuse herself in a restaurant because "I must go punch that baby"?
At two hours 20 minutes, it does slightly run out of steam, and some mght want to take up their pitchforks against a film celebrating a hypersexualised infant.
Lanthimos is a canny operator. His films may be bleak and oblique, but he knows how to please audiences and stars. After her role in The Favourite, he has hitched his wagon to Stone. She already has an acting Oscar (for La La Land), but should she need another, Bella Baxter is an almost perfect award-nabbing vehicle. One the one hand it is the kind of physically demanding, indignity-heaped role that can easily be acclaimed as "brave." On the other, she is casually assured dominant leading lady, always in control and with all the best lines. As an Oscar contender, it covers every base from Day-Lewis in My Left Food to Bette Davis's legendary near-miss in All About Eve.Q Brick, Private Eye, 17th January 2024
You won't be able to keep your eyes of Emma Stone.Deborah Ross, The Spectator, 13th January 2024
This quirky and manic film unashamedly puts sex back on the big screen.Dulcie Pearce and Hanna Flint, The Sun, 11th January 2024