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Emma Stone shines in feminist twist on Poor Things: A Review

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Godwin recruits one of his students, Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef), to observe her. Before long, shes imploring them to take her into the outside world. Gradually, she and McCandles grow close, with Baxter encouraging their union, as long as they live under his roof. But when a legal document is drawn up, Bella takes off with the sleazy solicitor, Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), who encourages her to join him on a trip to Lisbon. Her lack of social decorum, in polite society, raises more than a few smiles. “I must go and punch that baby,” she yells, in the midst of a tearoom, infuriated by a crying infant.

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While shes already learnt how to pleasure herself, Wedderburn repeatedly beds her, allowing her to discover the pleasures of “furious jumping”, as she terms between-the-sheets action, speaking in that inimitable style of hers. As Wedderburns jealousy grows, he resolves to kidnap her, taking her on a cruise a trick that backfires spectacularly, as Bella becomes wise to him. The more she discovers about the world, the more she becomes her own woman, learning more about her body and brain.

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Shot chiefly in black-and-white, Lanthimos and his team create delicious a fairytale feel, thanks to the idiosyncratic costumes and production design. Robbie Ryans cinematography, frequently shooting the characters using a distorting fish-eye lens, adds to the Poor Things woozy, disorienting feel. There are moments when it almost feels like youre spying on these oddball characters, looking through a keyhole at this hermetically-sealed world. Even the grating music, by Jerskin Fendrix, swells this curious atmosphere.

The plaudits will rightly go to Stone for a remarkable performance that has both physical and emotional demands, although her male co-stars each bring something magical. In Ruffalos case, its heartening to see Marvels Hulk star as a swine whose vulnerabilities will be exposed. Youssef, the stand-up comic best known for Ramy, shows confidence in the handling of the language by McNamara, who slyly adapts Alasdair Grays 1992 novel. Dafoe, meanwhile, adds another fabulously curious character to his collection.

While the film could do with some trimming at 141 minutes, it feels overstretched, the European jaunt especially Lanthimos does pull it round for the final London-set act. Somehow both tender and vengeful, its a rich story that blossoms in this closing chapter, as Bella gains greater agency in the patriarchal universe. Eccentric and uncanny, it once again shows Lanthimos as the master purveyor of the strange and surreal.

Poor Things is now showing in UK cinemas. Check out more of our Film coverage, or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what’s on.

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