Director: Yorgos Lanthimos Screenwriter: Tony McNamara Cast: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, Jerrod Carmichael Distributor: Searchlight Pictures Running Time: 141 min. MPAA: R

Yargos Lathimos seems to have this nature of freedom in his work. Poor Things is a film with all the stylish decor of a costume drama with a premise that could harken to Frankenstein. Anybody expecting that from the trailers or posters is going to be in for one hell of a surprise when they discover how chaotically absurd, grotesque, blunt, and horny this film turns out to be. There’s something instantly loveable about a movie that features a decadent dining room with whimsical costumes on upper-class figures, only for one fearless woman to barge in and speak openly about tasting penises and wanting to punch a whiny baby in the room.

That woman is Bella (Emma Stone), the latest experiment of the mad scientist Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). She has the mind of a child as she attempts to grow used to her adult body. As she progresses from peeing on the floor to forming sentences, she makes a brilliant discovery: Masturbation! She shares this info with her observer and fellow doctor, Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef). Keen to experience more sex, she options to marry Max, a prospect that Godwin favors. Max, however, is a bit hesitant, considering the truth about Bella’s development.

More inclined to give Bella the five-star sex experience is the sinister and upper-class accountant Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo). He takes her out of the stuffy house and showcases a more colorful world of sex, pastries, dresses, sex, booze, sex, and sex. Although Bella enjoys the thrill of these many vices, she also witnesses how easily Duncan grows frustrated when Bella doesn’t act like a lady in public. Rather than experience some My Fair Lady bullshit about learning to be proper, Bella slowly starts to see that the world’s rules are broken and don’t make sense.

As Bella travels with Duncan, she goes on an odyssey of trying to understand society better. While she delights in her sex-on-demand relationship, she soon realizes that Duncan is bratty and selfish. With Bella learning fast, she starts discarding Duncan of his money and monogamy, favoring exploring more of the world than remaining in the box he has crafted for himself. The further Bella wanders with intelligent suggestions and developments, the more she becomes a whole person, not bound by the ties of love that are more legal than passionate.

This is such a wonderfully bizarre and hilarious film that treads beautifully into various themes. It becomes more exciting as it goes. Bella takes valuable lessons from the cynical passenger commenting on capitalism (Jerrod Carmichael) to a wise brothel runner’s philosophy on sex’s power (Kathryn Hunter). There’s a fearlessness to how Bella approaches the troubling aspects of the world, first with sadness and then with a tactical and earnest reformation. As such, Bella transforms from a childish creature unable to understand the world to someone who understands it perfectly, to such a degree that she’s willing to change it. If that means forgoing being dignified in front of upper-class men or changing governmental structures, so be it.

There’s unparalleled boldness to how this film looks and feels. Here’s a movie with a fantastical depiction of Europe with vibrant colors, wild backgrounds, and camera techniques that make this experience feel more like a dream. Such grandeur usually crops up in more extensive production, and here it is being used for a film with abundant sex scenes, profane dialogue, bodies being mutilated, Stone flopping around the penises of corpses, and Dafoe vomiting up giant gas bubbles. Much like Bella, there’s no fear in what goes up on the screen, and there’s an intoxicating sensation with a film being this intelligent, beautiful, and vulgar all at once.

Poor Things fucks! There is so much to love about the film, but perhaps the best praise that can be bestowed on the film is that it’s the funniest and horniest movie of 2023. It’s rare to see a film this astounding, where a scene of Stone and Ruffalo trying to end a fight is unbelievably hilarious for how long the uncomfortable silence and stumbling of words continues. In the same way that Bella stuffs her face with booze and desserts when tasting for the first time, films like this are the good shit you immediately want another round of.

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