Review: ‘Poor Things’ with Emma Stone is wildly funny and stunning to behold

Poor Things, the latest film by Yorgos Lanthimos is a wildly funny and stunning to behold, yet completely bonkers and unpredictable dark and twisted take on the Frankenstein monster movie genre, with much more sex than a normal monster film. Emma Stone, as Bella Baxter, is a delight with both an entertaining and physical performance. 

Searchlight Pictures, the studio behind Poor Things, consistently acquires films of exceptional quality that frequently go the distance in the Oscar race, particularly in the Best Picture category. This ability to select high-caliber films, including Best Picture winners and nominees such as Slumdog MillionaireThe Shape of WaterJojo Rabbit, and Black Swan, is remarkable. Searchlight Pictures’ knack for identifying and acquiring outstanding films is nearly unparalleled in the industry.

Poor Things is the latest creation from the mind of Yorgos Lanthimos, the director behind The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. While Lanthimos has been an eclectic filmmaker with unique visions and sometimes downright weird ideas, his previous work, The Favourite, struck a nerve with the Academy. Poor Things is likely to continue Searchlight Pictures’ trend towards Academy favorites this year. The set designs, makeup, and costumes are all easily headed for Academy Awards nominations.

This film has been painstakingly crafted to Lanthimos perfection. While its many messages of pro-choice, female empowerment, toxic masculinity, and sex work are interesting, they get a bit lost in the shuffle of everything this film is doing. But in the end, both general audiences and critics alike will find this one hell of a rich old time with these Poor Things.

The story of Poor Things

As our tale opens, Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) stands on the railing of a bridge, her back turned to us. The sky behind her is a swirling synthetic hues of deep blue. She’s in a spectacularly woven dark blue dress that looks like a costume from one of the rich elite in The Hunger Games. She leans forward, and we get an aerial view of her falling down towards the waters below. 

Emma Stone in Poor Things. Image courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.


We then get a title screen that informs us that we are in London, but then the scene cuts and changes to black and white. Bella is seen wearing a white blouse and knickers and sitting in front of a piano on a bench. Her legs are spread apart and perched up on the keys. She begins to sporadically smash the keys and bang away incoherently. Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Defoe), or “God” as Bella calls him for short, is seen observing her playing. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the lines on his face.

Dr. Baxter looks like a version of Frankenstein

The doctor looks like a version of Frankenstein, his face horribly scarred, almost like it was sliced into pieces and then sewn back together at some point. Bella and the doctor then sit in a dining room, a myriad of plates decorating the walls; they sit in oversized chairs on either end of the table as Bella continues banging with some metal utensils. We notice that the doctor has some tubes running from his body to a machine, the likes of which we’ve never seen before, but we get the impression he’s getting treated for some kind of illness. 

It’s impossible to go into too much detail about the sets in Poor Things. They’re so extravagantly detailed and gorgeously designed that I could easily spend the rest of the review talking about them. Suffice it to say that the sets, ships, trams, instruments, costumes, and even the buildings and the world itself look and feel very vintage yet also futuristic, like we’ve been transported into a Dr. Seuss book.

Demented hack or extraordinary surgeon?

We then visit Dr. Baxter as he performs an autopsy of sorts at some kind of college that looks more like an English courtroom. He asks, “Who would like to reconstruct the organs?” as the youngsters comment on his work, some considering him a demented hack, others an extraordinary surgeon.

(From L-R:) Margaret Qualley, Willem Dafoe and Ramy Youssef in POOR THINGS. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.


As Dr. Baxter walks down the street back to his home, we get one of the standard fish eye lens tracking shots as a reminder of whose world we’ve entered. Dr. Baxter meets Max (Ramy Youssef), a bearded gentleman that he’s hired to observe Bella, “a very pretty retard” as Max calls her, to keep notes and write down her progress. All the while, we hear the off-key strumming of a violin or possibly a banjo that’s out of tune, the music and score keeping us a bit off-center, as if just the visuals and everything we’re watching wasn’t enough.

Bella is an experiment

But as Dr. Baxter explains to Max that Bella is an experiment that he’s monitoring the results from, as the first act draws out, we watch as Bella goes from babbling and smashing dishes for amusement to the discovery of her own genitals and sexuality, to more advanced speech and language. 

Bella is learning and developing. But when she’s finally barely capable of making some of her own decisions, a handsome and seductive lawyer, Duncan (Mark Ruffalo), comes along and convinces Bella to go see the world with him. To quote Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you’ll go,” and in this film, the wild adventures, fantastical places, and quirky characters Bella encounters while coming into her own and gaining autonomy, well, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen on the screen before.

Yorgos Lanthimos is a visionary director

Yorgos Lanthimos is a visionary director whose unique style is easily recognized, and he is easily one of the most auteur directors working today. He executed his vision for this film with master strokes, and his brilliance in bringing it to life is almost unparalleled, considering how wildly imaginative the characters, sets, and even the story itself are. He will almost assuredly receive a Best Director nomination for his work on this film.

Katherine Hunter, Emma Stone and the cast of POOR THINGS. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.


This screenplay from Tony McNamara is also top-notch. It uses humor and zany one-liners to punch up a scene as good as any I’ve seen this year. Also, certainly in store are nominations for so many of the crafts. As I’ve already gone into some detail about, the gorgeous costumes that embrace a wide color palette of bright yellows and baby blues, as well as the ruffles, ruffles, oh so many ruffles of all shapes and sizes, there’s virtually no way this film won’t win Oscar gold for this level of work.

The cinematography is also stunning. The camera angles and fish eye lens shots are utilized along with the editing to keep giving us fresh perspectives. This helps to pace the film, and Poor Things flows by with time escaping the room while you watch. The original score of the film is a truly memorable listening experience. The chimes and orchestra music are sometimes ethereal and fantastical, combined with the off-key violin plucking previously mentioned.

Poor Things is the Emma Stone show

Emma Stone is a delight in Poor Things, delivering a simultaneously entertaining and physical performance. As she evolves from the robotic walking of her baby-like state to the intelligent and confident woman we see later on, she really puts on a show. Defoe and Ruffalo are also giving excellent work, and although they are not onscreen nearly as long (as this is the Emma Stone show), they still leave a solid impression. 

Finally, the production design of this film is utterly incomparable to anything else I’ve ever seen. It is another element of the film that is destined for the Oscar stage. This film is a technical marvel to behold. While it won’t necessarily make my top favorites of the year, the sheer excellence of most of the elements involved certainly makes it worth your time. 

My final thoughts on Poor Things

With a two-hour and twenty-minute runtime, you might expect a film like Poor Things to drag, but there’s so much happening and so many details on display in every moment of the film that the entertainment value is through the roof. The richness and beauty of Poor Things won’t leave you feeling poor when you leave. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that you aren’t likely to experience again until the next Yorgos Lanthimos film.

How to watch the movie Poor Things

Poor Things will release nationwide in theaters on December 8, 2023. You can view the trailer below:

Have you seen Poor Things yet? What did you think?  Join the conversation below, or follow us on X (formerly Twitter) @MoviesWeTexted to continue the discussion.

Looking for more likely award nominees? Check out our review of Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla,  or check out our review of Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn. If you like stunts and action, check out our review of The Marvels.