I have a favorite film of 2023! I’ve been a big fan of director Yorgos Lanthimos since The Lobster. His films are always convention shattering. And Poor Things continues that trend. It’s a dark feminist comedy/fantasy/romance about a young woman who is reanimated by mad scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), but with a brilliant twist that would make Mary Shelley proud. He takes the brain of the dead woman’s live baby and implants it in her head. Emma Stone plays Bella with a sense of wild abandon. And it is fabulous!

When we first meet Bella, she’s  a child in a woman’s body, still learning to speak and move. Godwin, or “God” as she calls him, hires Max (Ramy Youssef, “Mr. Robot”, “Ramy”), one of his medical students, to help track her progress and teach her about the world. And of course he falls in love with her. She is gorgeous and a whole lot of fun. And one of her discoveries is how to give herself pleasure. Well, that opens a big kettle of fish. Max wants to marry her, but the lawyer who comes to draw up the contract has other plans. Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), a scheming lothario sees an oversexed but naive beautiful woman ripe for the picking and spirits her away with him for a romp through Europe.

What is wonderful about Bella is that just like a child, everything is new and she has no filter. She says and does what makes her happy. Yes, lots of sex, but her childlike curiosity also leads her to question the world’s norms. She steals money to give to the poor. She even suggests to the madame of the brothel she works in for a while that the women should be able to pick the men!

The movie is a delightful ride from top to bottom, beginning to end.  The amazingly inventive Victorian Steampunk production design has to be at the top of a lot of best of lists. The costumes are so much fun. All the actors are in top form. Emma Stone will undoubtedly and deservedly receive a  whole lot of awards season love for her bravura performance as a woman coming into her own on her own terms. Ruffalo plays the perfect foil. I was also happy to see Hanna Schygulla back on screen in a few scenes. And the script is funny and smart and over-the-top. I highly recommend it to lovers of Lanthimos’s previous films, particularly The Favourite. Prudish viewers should stay far away.

In limited release. 

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