starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef
screenplay by Tony McNamara, based upon the novel by Alasdair Gray
directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
by Walter Chaw Ex Machina by way of Anaïs Nin, Yorgos Lanthimos's Poor Things is a libertine exercise-cum-fable about the hypocrisies of politesse and the occasional eruptions of collective sexual hysteria designed exclusively for shackling women to proverbial bits and millstones. It is the final of three films in 2023 that use Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a launchpad for progressive genre explorations, locating in the novel's stitched-together creature a fulsome metaphor for the indignities afforded the spirit encased in prisons of rotting flesh. Rather than quibble about the merits of one over the other, watch all three (Bomani J. Story's The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster and Laura Moss's Birth/Rebirth being the other two) in any sequence to witness the unfolding of an extended treatise on gender and racial politics delivered with brio, invention, wicked intelligence, and bracing creative courage. It's possible to make a movie of a lecture, but it's more effective to make dangerous, even experimental, art from which all manner of lecture and examination will eventually be constructed. The former is the province of creators limited by their fear and ignorance, the latter of mad scientists inordinately confident in the ability of their cinematic children to find a way through the rubble of a drowned and ruined world. I don't know that these three films are the best three films of the year, but they're among them, and certainly, they comprise an uncanny trilogy for a period in which the United States has stripped women of their bodily autonomy at the moment of a suspiciously-timed rise in fascist white nationalism and its handmaiden, Puritanism. They're doing it in the open: raising a flag of moral panic waved by Evangelical fucknuts pushing hard for an Apocalypse they hope will consign everyone else on this burning Earth to a damnation born of their perverse, onanistic fetishism.