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‘Poor Things’: The Oscar Nominated Film That Has Everybody Talking

Poor Things stars Emma Stone as protagonist Bella Baxter. This role brings Emma’s second nomination for ‘Best Actress’ following her.

Emma Watson as 'Bella Baxter'. Credit: Youtube/Searchlight Pictures

‘Poor Things’ has taken audiences by storm. The new science fantasy film starring Emma Stone has become a critically acclaimed success, with 11 Oscar nominations for 2024, making it the second most nominated film following Oppenheimer.

The Premise of ‘Poor Things’

Based on a 1992 novel by Alasdair Grey, the film explores the development of Bella Baxter, a young woman brought back to life following her suicide attempt by scientist Dr Godwin Baxter. Godwin developed a scientific method to implant one creature’s mind into another’s body. In the case of Bella, she is ultimately survived through the implant of her unborn child’s brain into her own.

The Cast of ‘Poor Things’

Poor Things stars Emma Stone as protagonist Bella Baxter. This role brings Emma’s second nomination for ‘Best Actress’ following her win for LaLa Land at the 2017 Oscars. Willem Dafoe plays the quirky scientist Godwin, as the creator of Bella, his character subtly references Victor Frankenstein and the dynamics of science and experiment. Bella grows attracted to Godwin’s student Max (played by Ramy Youssef) but ultimately rejects him for Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), a womanizer who takes Bella on a series of adventures across Europe.

Willem Dafoe at the Poor Things Premier. Credit: Shutterstock/Andrea Raffin

Themes in ‘Poor Things’

Through the character of Bella Baxter, Poor Things explores the themes of gender, control, and autonomy. As Bella develops mentally and physically, she begins to experiment with her body and starts to derive pleasure from her sexuality. Antagonist Duncan Wedderburn takes Bella to Europe but becomes so infatuated with her, that he cannot handle her interacting with anyone but him.

Emma Stone in ‘Poor Things’. Credit: Youtube/Searchlight Pictures

As Bella lacks the social conditioning faced by other women, she cannot comprehend the harsh patriarchal standards imposed upon her by men. Duncan ultimately becomes heartbroken as Bella becomes a sex worker, as she willingly and happily chooses to share her body for profit. With a developing mind, Bella hasn’t conformed to notions of shame that women are conditioned to do, and lacks the understanding of male power and control.

Emma Stone discussed the character of Bella Baxter:

“The more agency Bella gets, the more she learns and grows, the more it drives these men insane. The more she has an opinion and her own wants and needs and all of that, it makes them crazy; they want her to stay this sort of pure thing.”

Fann Team

Empowering or a Male Fantasy?

Poor Things has received backlash for the vast amount of sex and nudity in the film. Audiences and critics of ‘Poor Things’ are divided on whether the highly sexualized film is empowering for its female character or highly problematic. Despite the graphic depictions of sex and sexualized violence, Bella willingly chooses to engage in sex and finds it a pleasurable experience. It is her emphasis on pleasure and autonomy that makes it an empowering lifestyle for her, as she has the freedom to experiment with her body through sex.

A BBC interview with Emma Stone revealed that the sex scenes were an integral part of the film and the development of Bella Baxter.

The sex is obviously a huge part of her experience and her growth, as it is, I think, for most people in life. So for the camera to sort of shy away from that, or to say like, ‘Okay, well, we’ll just cut all of this out because our society functions in a particular way,’ it felt like a lack of being honest about who Bella is. That’s part of her journey”.

Dusty Baxter-Wright

Yorgos Lanthimos

Within all of his films, Yorgos Lanthimos creates absurdity and horror while posing simple questions on the human experience. ‘Poor Things’ encapsulates this mixture, by providing audiences with graphic depictions of sex and bodily horror. While also provoking the shared human experiences of anxiety and dread. Yorgos Lanthimos has proven successful in his previous films ‘The Lobster’, and ‘The Favourite’, specifically through his unique characterization.

“Lanthimos’s characters are rarely defined by tragedy; he allows his female characters, in particular, to be nasty, cruel, dangerous. They are whole, rather than types.”

Nicole Flattery

Mixed Audience Reactions

From its unique plot and experimental cinematography, nothing surrounding Poor Things is usual. Audience’s mixed feelings towards the acclaimed film showcase a high Rotten Tomatoes score of 92%. Many are conflicted over the graphic and overt depictions of sex. Others appreciate the multifaceted representations within the film.

@regansrecs

Replying to @coriolis effect My take on the criticisms of Poor Things! I think the themes around male gaze and female sexuality were very intentional. Tell me your thoughts if you’ve seen it! #poorthingsfilm #movietok

♬ original sound – Regan Pence

Despite its many criticisms online, ‘Poor Things’ has achieved widespread success across the globe, and offered a unique representation of women and sexuality.

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Hello! My name is Rachel, I'm from Manchester and I'm a Journalism student at Cardiff University! I love writing anything related to popular culture and entertainment.

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