Poor Things review: Emma Stone gives virtuoso display in bonkers romp | Films | Entertainment

The weird and the wonderful frolic hand in hand in Yorgos Lanthimos’s deranged coming-of-age fairy tale.

Torn from the pages of Alasdair Gray’s novel, Poor Things reunites the director of Oscar-winning period comedy The Favourite with screenwriter Tony McNamara and actress Emma Stone for a fantastical, feminist reimagining of Frankenstein.

Here, the pungent Glaswegian setting of Gray’s book has been replaced with an equally lurid steampunk vision of late 19th-century London. Every facet of the film is polished and epic.

Jaw-dropping production design, including elaborate street scenes and interiors fashioned by hand as an immersive playground for the actors, seduce the eye.

Costumes are ravishing and director of photography Robbie Ryan moves seamlessly from black and white in the opening 25 minutes to colour as the film’s fearless heroine blazes a trail into the outside world, blissfully ignorant of the era’s tightly corseted conventions.

Stone’s virtuoso portrayal of Bella Baxter – a medical experiment granted life when Willem Dafoe’s mad scientist transplants the brain of a baby into an adult’s body – defies superlatives. She commits ferociously to her embodiment of a wide-eyed innocent untouched by cynicism or self-censorship.

When an infant’s piercing cries disturb Bella, she coolly proclaims: “I must punch that baby!”

Subtle changes in her language fluency, posture and bodily movements provide a clear roadmap of the character’s white-knuckle joyride from infancy to maturity. Full-frontal nudity becomes commonplace in service of the zany plot.

Dafoe’s accent (appropriated from Gray’s book) hikes around Celtic nations but doesn’t settle in one location. Mark Ruffalo is more assured as a moustachioed dandy, who lures Bella away from her guardian for a globe-trotting odyssey of sexual experimentation.

“Bella discover happy when she want,” she whoops, with intentionally stilted vocabulary, having just learned the art of self-pleasure with a piece of fruit.

Lanthimos’s bonkers escapade is a peach.


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