Enjoy the “strangest” film of the year

Published 12:21 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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This week at the Tryon Theatre, we have the long-anticipated and much-discussed “Poor Things.” This film, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, is wildly imaginative and wonderfully creative, adapted from Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel, Poor Things: Episodes from the Early Life of Archibald McCandless M.D., Scottish Public Health Officer. This film has received a nomination for Best Picture, as well as a nomination for Best Supporting Actress with its lead, Emma Stone. And while the praise for the film’s artistic merit has been broad and high, it has also been abundantly described as the “strangest” film of the year. These reactions by audiences are sentiments that we at Tryon Theatre share in our assessment of the film. 

In a conceptual capacity, “Poor Things” is a “Frankenstein” story. The titular character, Bella Baxter, played by Stone, is a product of Victorian-era experimentation at the hands of an arguable “mad scientist,” Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). Similar to Frankenstein’s monster, she is a newly awakened individual, born freshly into existence but contained in the bodily vessel of a deceased adult. 

This story follows Bella on a journey outside of the lab as her rapidly increasing intelligence and worldliness propel her in pursuit of experience and philosophy. In her explorations of a creatively reimagined Victorian world, Bella routinely finds herself challenging the ideals and sensibilities of decorum, much to the dismay of the men in her orbit. 

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As Bella grows throughout the film, her experience carries great emotional weight and complication for both her identity and her innocence. Of course, as is the case in our more grounded reality, life is defined by a blend of experiences, negative and positive alike. As Bella embraces this admittedly messy composition of existence, she increasingly builds in her independence and her complexity, becoming a true individual. 

In an important note of tone, Bella’s appetite for experience is all-encompassing, taking her on a winding and fantastical path of pleasures and pains, bodily, emotional, and mental. The depiction of this dizzying arc is visually graphic, to say the least, with nudity, sex and violence aplenty. There is not a frame of the film without distinct artistic composition, but the content of those frames will be shocking for some viewers, in both detail and duration. Now, we do not address the graphic nature of the film to deter attendance by any means but rather to mitigate some of the shock and hopefully encourage you to take a chance on this creative film! And of course, the Academy has seen fit to nominate “Poor Things” for the highest honors, a gesture that carries great weight for many of our audience. 

Stone already had a laudable filmography prior to her casting in “Poor Things” but has certainly escalated her range and complexity in her inhabitation of Bella, a career-best. Supporting her excellent performance is a roster of strong character actors, most notably Mark Ruffalo, who plays one of her ill-guided suitors. 

We hope that you will join us for what is one of the most creative and artistic films of the year and admittedly the strangest we will be carrying. We are confident that most will find the cinematic gamble rewarding!