At The Movies With Josh: Poor Things

Writer/Director Yorgos Lanthimos is an awful filmmaker, which is a shame, because all his movies have a few brilliant scenes. His first, “Dog Tooth,” was good, but very disturbing. “The Lobster” was utterly ridiculous (again, with a few terrific scenes). “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” had great performances from Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan (catch him in “Saltburn” this year). Yet the interesting story in “Sacred Deer” goes off the rails early. And don’t even get me started on his period piece “The Favourite” – which was one of the most overrated of 2018. But Lanthimos somehow convinced one of the cast members from that, Emma Stone, to be in this horrific mess. It basically becomes a porn film at one point, with Emma Stone being completely naked, and in at least 25 different sex scenes. It made me wonder why she would do this (and I’m sure her agent, husband and family, wonder the same thing). It also made me wonder how this wasn’t rated NC-17. And I’m not some prude. One of my all-time favorite movies is “Boogie Nights.” And I thought Helen Hunt being completely naked in the brilliant “The Sessions” worked and added to the story. Stone naked in various sex positions with various men – is gratuitous and unnecessary.

Here’s the story. A woman jumps off a bridge in a suicide attempt. She’s saved by Dr. Godwin (“God” – the always terrific Willem Dafoe). He realizes she’s pregnant, and does a Frankenstein type of thing where he takes the baby’s brain and puts it her, and with a few other surgeries, brings her back to life. Now Bella has the body of a 30-year-old but the brain of a baby. That means she speaks gibberish. She doesn’t like any food, so she chews it at the table and immediately lets it dribble out of her mouth. A medical student that observes her says she’s a “beautiful retard.” Huh? First, there’s nothing beautiful about her. And also, isn’t the R-word off limits?

Anyway, a lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) comes over to have Godwin sign some papers, and he looks around the grounds. My wife rolled her eyes at this bizarre castle that looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie and said, “This is like a steampunk wet dream.”

On that note, as Bella learns to properly walk, she also learns that those vegetables she doesn’t like eating at the table, feel nice between her legs. So she can’t stop masturbating, even grabbing the maid in the crotch to show her (her shock and yelling “She grabbed my hairy bits” might be one of the few times I laughed). Oh, and how can any movie lover, who despises crying babies in movies they shouldn’t be in, not enjoy the scene where Bella wants to punch a crying baby in a restaurant?

I also have to admit the dance scene was kind of fun. That’s about it.

Ruffalo’s character is a womanizer, and for a while, that makes them two peas in a pod. He agrees to show her the world, while they have sex all the time. It’s mildly amusing to watch him go from loving this relationship, to being annoyed by the rude or inappropriate things she says to strangers. He’s also often baffled by the various decisions she makes.

Some of the colors were nice to look at, as were the costumes and interior shot. But those things, along with the dumb critics thinking this is all about female empowerment, will praise it as fine art (one of the worst critics around, Katie Walsh, gave it 4 stars out of 4).

I don’t mind that the period vocabulary was off, because…when you have creatures like a dog head on a duck body, as if this was some Island of Dr. Moreau, the language is the least of my worries. I have a bigger problem with the brothel in France, being a place she seems to enjoy working. Oh, aside from those few customers that stink or aren’t interested in foreplay. Hmm…wouldn’t she have gotten syphilis or some other diseases? Nah. She just discovered herself, and it helps her gain agency over…oh hell, I don’t know.

Lanthimos also seems to think his filmmaking style is so clever, going from black-and-white to color like “The Wizard of Oz” (or more recently, “Maestro”). He also employs a fisheye lens often, which makes no sense.

The score was one of the worst I’ve heard all year.

Nepo baby Margaret Qualley and Jerrod Carmichael were miscast (although check out his brilliant film “On the Count of Three” which he directed and stars in).

Kathryn Hunter was well-cast as the madame running the brothel, although she also had to deal with this horrible script.

The humor in this movie almost always falls flat. The emotional moments don’t work. It’s not provocative. And I’m not sure how a woman being exploited (both the fictional character and actress playing her) is the feminist picture other critics are going to claim this to be.

Of course, 92% of movies have a vomit scene, and this has one too. Many filmgoers will throw up if they sit through the almost two and a half hours of this mess.

0 stars.

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