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Culture > Entertainment

Is ‘Poor Things’ the Weirdest Movie of 2023?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pitt chapter.

For cinephiles, seeing “Yorgos Lanthimos” on a poster indicates exactly what type of movie you’re going to see. Incredibly weird, unique cinematography, deadpan acting, perhaps with themes of absurdity and deep dives into human nature. The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Favourite, The Lobster – three of his most popular films that exemplify everything fans of his have come to love and adore.

His most recent turn, Poor Things, is both a change of pace and a fine-tuning of the best qualities of his filmography.

Poor Things tells the story of Bella Baxter, a young, childlike Victorian woman living in gothic London with her peculiar guardian, Godwin. When she’s betrothed to Godwin’s protegee, Max McCandless, she decides instead to leave for a cross-continent journey with oily lawyer Duncan Wedderburn to discover her independence and see the world.

What makes the strange, sci-fi environment of Poor Things truly work is Bella herself. Emma Stone gives a masterclass in physical acting – when we first see Bella, she’s stood on the edge of a bridge before toppling gracefully to the roaring river below. A few scenes later, she’s back, but different. She can’t quite walk properly, stumbling from room to room like a toddler just learning to stand. Physically, Bella is a grown woman, but it’s clear she’s not. She speaks without thinking, hits people and has little knowledge or care for social norms. 

When Max finally asks Godwin what Bella’s deal is, we discover her backstory. She had committed suicide while heavily pregnant by jumping off a bridge, and her body was discovered by Godwin. Shocked by the perfect condition of her body, he brought her to his home and turned her into one of his experiments, not dissimilar from the half duck-half dog running around his yard – he switched her brain with that of her unborn child to bring her back to life.

And it worked! Bella is very much alive, and very much a child. She knows nothing of her previous life or her unborn child. Godwin and Max mark her progress as she develops at an accelerated pace, fast-tracking the baby and toddler stage and settling somewhere around her preteens – still young with no sense of how to interact in society, but clearly a bit more grown up than when we first saw her. 

An early turning point in Poor Things is when Bella grows … ahem … very familiar with a cucumber at the dinner table. From then on, her path is laid out clearly – she yearns to learn about herself, about the world, with a thirst for knowledge that overflows beyond Godwin’s mansion. When Duncan Wedderburn, Godwin’s lawyer, shows up to lay out a marriage agreement between Bella and Max, Bella seizes the opportunity and abandons Godwin and Max, setting off with Duncan to explore the world instead.

In Lisbon, the film takes off. While scenes at Godwin’s house were in black and white, Portugal is in screaming color. In the sequences of Duncan and Bella abroad is where Poor Things shines. The pair engage in much sex and hedonism, almost to the point of excess, but never quite tipping the line. They dance, they fight, they drink. It could grow boring if not for the electric performances from both Stone and Mark Ruffalo, who portrays Duncan – the two have incredible chemistry with each other, and every interaction they share is profoundly hilarious.

Poor Things easily tops the list of the weirdest movies of 2023. It’s incredibly raunchy at every turn, provocative, and crosses the genres of comedy, sci-fi, drama and fantasy seamlessly. It’s easy to get caught up in the absurdity of it all, but at the heart of the film is something very simple – a woman taking control of her body and mind, freeing herself from being contained by the men around her. It’s as beautiful as it is weird.

Sienna is a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh. When it comes to writing, she likes to tackle topics like movies, television, music, celebrities, and any other pop culture goings-on. Sienna is a biological sciences and sociology double major at Pitt with a goal of attaining a certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. In addition to being a writer at Her Campus, Sienna is in the Frederick Honors College and is a member of Women in Healthcare, Pitt Democrats, and Bookmarked. After her undergraduate education, Sienna hopes to go to medical school and become a cardiothoracic surgeon. When she's not reading or studying, Sienna loves crossing films off her watchlist, reading new books, and trying a latte from every coffee shop in Oakland.