Today: Feb 27, 2024

Movie review: Poor Things

Ali Fernand- Editor-in-Chief

“Poor Things” is a critically acclaimed movie released on Dec. 8, 2023, starring Emma Stone who plays Bella Baxter. Despite being out for less than two months, the movie has already won awards for phenomenal acting and storytelling.  

It is hard to define the genre of this movie. Dystopian seems to be the best fit, as it takes themes from current and historical social commentary. The world built in “Poor Things” feels like a different planet. The skies are full of bright colors, and the architecture is reminiscent of an older era of London.  

The concept of the movie is based on science fiction as Dr. Godwin Baxter, played by icon Willem Dafoe, performs experimental surgery on humans and animals. Bella Baxter is one of these human experiments. This brings up the overarching theme of the movie, which is female autonomy.  

The movie poster for Poor Things staring Emma Stone.

Before becoming Bella Baxter, the previous owner of this body was named Victoria, who took her own life during a tough pregnancy. Dr. Baxter then lobotomizes Victoria and replaces her brain with the brain of the baby she was carrying.  

The character of Bella Baxter brings a fascinating perspective to life. As the viewer, you see an adult with the brain of a child learn about the world around her. She skips essential childhood experiences and is thrust into adulthood without any preparation.  

There is of course the whimsy of seeing life for the first time: going outside, trying different foods and learning how big the world is. However, we also see Bella learn the horrors of the world. There is a moment when she sees poverty and suffering for the first time. Her first instinct is to help them, something other regular adults have convinced themselves they cannot do.  

The viewer also watches an adult woman quickly learn about her sexuality, which the men who meet her quickly take advantage of. Bella is unsurprisingly easy to take advantage of, as she is understandably curious about her body and what pleasure is like.  

This leads Duncan Wedderburn, played by Mark Ruffalo, to become completely enamored with her. But as you can imagine, he is driven insane by Bella’s cluelessness about social norms. She has no concept of monogamy or general politeness, making some believe she is the devil.  

Though the movie contains a lot of adult content, it feels earned in this context. Every man in Bella’s previous and current life has been trying to control her. They treat her like property and tell her that is what she is to them. There is a moment when she is desperate for money and quickly falls prey to adult work. She soon learns that a lot of the men enjoy that she does not return their interest in her.  

Watching a grown woman go through basic experiences for the first time puts into perspective how odd some social norms are in the first place. Many women are accustomed to the entitlement men feel over them. However, with a fresh brain, Bella realizes that autonomy is necessary, pleasure is not always fulfilling and what makes a relationship worth having. 

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