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‘Poor Things’ is rich in quality 

A man with a disfigured face Willem Dafoe.
Emily Monaco / THE GATEPOST
An orange with a black "O&J."

By Jack McLaughlin

Arts & Features Editor

By Owen Glancy

Asst. Arts & Features Editor

“Poor Things” released on Dec. 22, 2023 after receiving a ton of praise during its festival run, making especially big waves at festivals like Cannes and TIFF. 

Being the latest film from director Yorgos Lanthimos, this is unsurprisingly extremely strange. Lanthimos has always had a penchant for a more off-kilter tone and nonsensical plots, but “Poor Things” takes this to a whole other level. 

This film follows the journey of Bella Baxter, the result of an experiment done by her adoptive father Godwin Baxter, played by Willem Dafoe. 

The role of Bella Baxter is perhaps one of the most challenging for an actor to get right. She essentially has the brain of an infant, but the body of a grown woman. This is a result of her pregnant mother throwing herself off a bridge at the film’s opening, only for the baby’s brain to be transplanted into the mother’s body by Godwin Baxter. 

Emma Stone absolutely kills this role. She is every bit as awkward and naive as she should be, while also retaining her dignity and identity. Much of the film would not be what it is without Stone’s phenomenal performance, so it comes as little surprise that she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. 

Dafoe’s performance was spectacular, despite not receiving an Oscar nomination. His presence on screen is always a weird mix of intriguing and bizarre - you always want just a little bit more of him. 

He is almost always shown surrounded by his other experiments in his intricately designed home. 

The production design really emphasizes this odd tone. The backgrounds have this painted, almost storybook look to them that transport the viewer effortlessly into the Victorian world that the characters inhabit. 

Right from the first frame, the exquisite production design is immediately apparent with the unique title cards that ease you into the bizarre world you are stepping into. This is the biggest sign that you are in for an unusual adventure, and that odd vibe is carried for the next two hours and 21 minutes. 

It’s not just the painstakingly designed sets that give this film its signature look, but also the immaculate makeup and costume design. 

Each of the characters are given immense detail when it comes to their makeup and hairstyling. Bella’s design is striking and will stick with you long after watching, but her design comes nowhere close to how they made Dr. Godwin Baxter look. 

Godwin’s character has intense facial disfigurement, and the team that did the prosthetic work on Dafoe made it look absolutely incredible. It never looks unrealistic, and Dafoe’s performance seals him as the best-looking character in the film. 

Jerskin Fendrix’s Oscar-nominated score elevates every scene it’s featured in. The opening track “Bella'' perfectly captures the vibe of the film and accompanies the bizarre scene it’s featured in with such excellence. 

The film’s feminist themes are undeniably excellent. Unlike many “feminist” films nowadays with their bland protagonists who were born perfect and incapable of failure, “Poor Things” instead dares to ask what if our protagonist was actually a realistic portrayal of what women go through?

From her desire to leave Godwin’s house at the start of the film, to her desire for sexual freedom in the second half, Bella Baxter remains a realistic and relatable female character throughout the film’s runtime. Her wants and desires all seem to go against what the patriarchal society wants from her, but despite this, she continues to push forward, carving a path that’s entirely her own. 

By the end of the film, Bella earns that title of unstoppable girlboss that so many female protagonists struggle to attain. You’d be hard pressed to find a more satisfying scene than the ending of this film, which will undoubtedly make anyone, regardless of gender, feel powerful and uplifted. 

The film made a big sweep at this year’s Academy Awards. It took home the awards for Best Actress, Costume Design, Production Design, and Makeup and Hairstyling. 

It easily deserved all of these accolades. 

“Poor Things” was not the film that many expected it would be, but it quickly became one of the most beloved films from last year anyway. Yorgos Lanthimos managed to create what is simultaneously one of his strangest and most approachable films in his entire filmography.

It just further proves that 2023 was one of the best years for film in recent history, with big name directors releasing masterpiece after masterpiece. “Poor Things” stands up there with films like “Oppenheimer” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” as some of the best in recent memory. 

Rating: A+

Spectacularly bizarre


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