“Poor Things” Pops in Venice as Emma Stone Earns Raves in Yorgos Lanthimos’s Stunner

With the 80th Venice International Film Festival still underway and the Telluride Film Festival just wrapping this past Sunday, some of the year’s most eagerly anticipated films have had their world premieres recently. Michael Mann’s racing epic Ferrari blew the doors off Venice, while Ava DuVernay made history at the fest by becoming the first Black U.S. director in the film’s 80-year history to have a film in the main competition, her sweeping look at the life and work of author and journalist Isabel Wilkerson in Origin. In Telluride, Colman Domingo astonished with his performance as Bayard Rustin in Rustin, while Gael García Bernal got equally enthusiastic praise playing a gay Lucha Libre wrestler in Cassandro. 

These are just a few of the standouts at the two festivals—there were many more—yet if you had to attempt to gauge the buzz coming out of Venice and Telluride, you could make a solid argument for the Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos’s wild, lusty film Poor Things, featuring a go-for-broke performance by Emma Stone (who reunites with Lanthimos after their Oscar-lauded 2018 hit The Favourite.) Stone plays Bella Baxter, a young woman brought back from the dead who goes on a world tour of female empowerment and liberation that would make Frankenstein’s monster rethink his approach to a second life.

To wit:

Co-starring Willem Dafoe as Dr. Godwin Baxter, the man who brings Bella back to life, and Mark Ruffalo as the libertine lawyer Duncan Wedderburn who takes Bella on wild, often unhinged adventures, Poor Things has had rapturously received screenings at both Venice and Telluride and already has Oscar prognosticators predicting big things for Stone, Lanthimos, Dafoe, Ruffalo, and the talented craftspeople, including cinematographer Robbie Ryan and production designers Shona Heath and James Price, all of whom have pieced together this delicious tale of Victorian frights and delights.

It’s been a strange festival season, of course, with the dual strikes of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA roiling Hollywood and leaving most stars unable to promote their films. Yet the strength of the movies that played at both Venice and Telluride has left the critics and writers who cover the industry for a living feeling something strange—hope. Poor Things was one of the films that galvanized those in attendance to think, well, maybe things can be made whole again, as the quality of filmmaking on display left so much to treasure.

Here are a few of the reactions to Poor Things, which is slated for a December 8 release:


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