Yorgos Lanthimos’s odd and imaginative new film


“Poor Things” arrives at the M.V. Film Center on Friday, Jan. 26, at 7:30 pm. Directed by Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, this film is a bizarre and ingenious remake of the Frankenstein myth, based on Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel. Oscar nominee Emma Stone plays childlike Bella Baxter, peculiarly brought to life by apparently renowned scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter, played by an amazingly scarred-face Willem Dafoe. In fact, in the movie, Baxter has been scarred and rendered impotent by his father’s misguided experiments. Inviting Baxter to crawl into bed with her though he can’t function sexually and thinks of her as his daughter, Bella even calls him God for short.

As a reminder that she is an invention of Baxter, Bella has a stiff-legged, Frankensteinian gait and a strange, wide-eyed stare. She also chops up cadavers with Baxter in his lab. Once she comes fully to life, Baxter enlists goo-goo-eyed medical student Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef), along with Baxter’s maid Mrs. Prim (Vicki Pepperdine), to keep track of Bella as her remarkable growth progresses.

Enter Duncan Wedderburn, played by Mark Ruffalo, as a sexually eager lawyer who departs from London to Lisbon with Bella. As Bella grows more independent and articulate, she turns out to be as eager sexually as Duncan is. “Why do people not do this all the time?” Bella asks him. They’re a well-matched pair. Until, that is, Bella discovers masturbation as a way to satisfy herself without man or woman.

Once Bella leaves Baxter’s London home and lab, the film switches from black and white to a brilliant, almost cartoonlike color. In addition, the viewer will appreciate Bella’s gorgeous outfits by costume designer Holly Waddington, sure to be in the running for an Oscar.

Duncan and Bella move on by boat to Alexandria, Egypt, during which time a desperate Duncan tries to make Bella his prisoner. Instead, she spends her time reading books and making friends, growing independent from Duncan. Eventually they get kicked off the boat, and end up penniless in Paris. To earn money, Bella takes up sex work in a bordello, something she actually enjoys. While there, she befriends Toinette (Suzi Bemba), and begins going to labor meetings.

It is easy for the viewer to see and appreciate Lanthimos’s razzle-dazzle. Or not. The film has an abundance of stunning visuals — in fact, too many to keep track of — and the plot is filled with a dizzying bundle of twists and turns. It has won multiple awards, as well as 11 BAFTA nominations, and will no doubt earn a few Oscar nominations. It’s up to the viewer to decide if the evolution and liberation of Bella Baxter, as played by a brilliant Emma Stone, is worth watching for almost two and a half hours.

Information and tickets for “Poor Things” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.