Poor Things First Reviews: A Flawless Emma Stone Powers a Yorgos Lanthimos Masterpiece

Critics on hand for the film's Venice premiere say it's not only Lanthimos' most entertaining and accessible film yet, but Emma Stone's dazzling physical performance is also the best we've ever seen her.

by | September 1, 2023 | Comments


Poor Things, the latest from The Favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos, just premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it has received nothing but rave reviews. Critics are especially praising the performance by Emma Stone, who plays a reanimated woman navigating the world during the Victorian era. The first reviews also highlight what is sure to be the other talking point with Poor Things: the extreme levels of graphic sex and nudity. Surprisingly, this is also being celebrated for being Lanthimos’ most crowd-pleasing entertainment.

Here’s what critics are saying about Poor Things:

Is this another masterpiece from Lanthimos?

“He has out-weirded himself with Poor Things.” – Nicholas Barber,

“There’s strange, and then there’s the nonstop bonkers brilliance of Poor Things.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Could it be his best film yet?

Poor Things is the best film of Lanthimos’ career and already feels like an instant classic.” – Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

Poor Things is flawless…the crowning achievement of Lanthimos’s career.” – Serena Seghedoni, Loud and Clear Reviews

Poor Things is Yorgos Lanthimos’s most ambitious and captivating swing yet.” – Lex Briscuso, Film School Rejects

Will most moviegoers find it entertaining?

“It is rare that something so thoughtful offers an audience such a good time.” – Donald Clarke, Irish Times

“It is a hugely entertaining film.” – Jonathan Romney, Screen International

Poor Things is an insanely enjoyable fairy tale that creates not just one, but multiple distinctive worlds — each of them a beguiling artwork — peopled by memorable characters fleshed out by a first-rate cast.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“Everything in it – every frame, every image, every joke, every performance – gets a gasp of excitement.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

Poor Things takes a minute to adjust to… but it’s easy to get hooked on what Lanthimos is building given the sheer entertainment of the film’s well-crafted narrative.” – Ben Rolph, AwardsWatch

Is it emotionally satisfying as well?

“Despite occasional unease, Poor Things ultimately packs an emotional kick.” – Geoffrey Macnab, Independent

“It’s oddly moving in its fervor and abundance.” – Guy Lodge, Variety

“It’s a surprise that Lanthimos’s new film Poor Things takes a long, strange trip toward something like sweetness.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“This is a sweeter film than we have come to expect from Lanthimos.” – Hannah Strong, Little White Lies

Will it also divide audiences?

“The excessive nature of the film will undoubtedly cause some division with those who watch, but ultimately it’s what we’ve come to expect from Lanthimos, albeit taking a further step in the direction of the obscene.” – Ben Rolph, AwardsWatch

“It may prove too subversive and oddball for more mainstream tastes.” – Geoffrey Macnab, Independent

Poor Things, with its scarred flesh and bared genitals, its anatomy-textbook dissections and vivisectional set pieces, may be the definition of A Movie Not for Everyone.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“You may find Poor Things off-puttingly over-the-top and self-indulgent.” – Nicholas Barber,

Just how graphic does it get?

“The raunchiest movie you’re likely to see all year.” – Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

Poor Things may just be one of the raunchiest, horny films in a long time.” – Ben Rolph, AwardsWatch

“One of the most sexually forthright movies ever released under the Disney banner.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“The film’s sex scenes, it should be said, are unrestrained and varied.” – Jonathan Romney, Screen International

“The film must contain more sex than the last 10 years of Hollywood’s output combined.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

Is the film funny?

Poor Things is a riot. McNamara’s screenplay is littered with laughs and quotable dialogue.” – Jane Crowther, Total Film

“Deliciously funny… Jokes on eunuchs, mutilation, cocaine, and erections are amusingly sprinkled throughout Lanthimos’ epic” – Rafaela Sales Ross, The Playlist

“Lanthimos definitely wants to make us laugh… though the 140-minute film does begin to wear out its welcome in the last third, when the jokes have mostly all been made before.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

Is it reminiscent of another filmmaker?

“There’s a kinship here with the films of Terry Gilliam.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“The elaborate, computer-generated exteriors that suggest Terry Gilliam when he leans too far into his steampunk obsessions.” – Donald Clarke, Irish Times

“Imagine a Terry Gilliam film multiplied by a Wes Anderson film and you’ll have some idea of the lavish freakishness in store.” – Nicholas Barber,

“Lanthimos rekindles memories of the work of Wes Anderson, or old Georges Melies silent films at their most artificial.” – Geoffrey Macnab, Independent

How is Emma Stone in it?

“Astonishing.” – Guy Lodge, Variety

“A tour de force performance.” – Hannah Strong, Little White Lies

“Emma Stone is exceptional. This feels like the role that she was born to play, as she delivers a tour-de-force of a performance with impressive physical acting and emotional commitment to the character.” – Serena Seghedoni, Loud and Clear Reviews

“Stone is utterly riveting as Bella, a role she was undoubtedly born to play… Her physical performance in this film is unmatched in recent memory.” – Lex Briscuso, Film School Rejects

“Emma Stone has never been better.” – Donald Clarke, Irish Times

“A dazzling performance by Emma Stone – if anything, outdoing her revelatory turn in The Favourite.” – Jonathan Romney, Screen International

“One of the more extraordinary performances of her career and certainly the most audacious.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“A performance that pushes both her, and us, beyond any comfort zone.” – Jane Crowther, Total Film

“It’s wildly smart, deeply thought-through work, unlike anything you’ve seen in years.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“She takes it to the next career level, or the level beyond the next level.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

Is she funny here?

“Stone’s gift for physical comedy has never been tapped to this extent.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“She tackles grand-scale physical comedy with gusto.” – Guy Lodge, Variety

“Stone’s talent for physical comedy and ability to deliver wordy, ludicrous dialogue with complete sincerity imbues Bella with an innocence that quickly evolves into resoluteness.” – Hannah Strong, Little White Lies

“Delightfully off-the-rails… proof that whatever cracked frequency she and Lanthimos are riding on, their alchemy is the real deal.” – Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

“Stone sees in Bella the perfect opportunity to marry the comedic talent that solidified her early career in American teenage comedies to the dramatic skills that have firmly placed her as one of the most critically acclaimed actresses of her generation.” – Rafaela Sales Ross, The Playlist

How does the film look?

“DP Robbie Ryan frames the world quite often with a fish-eye lens, a device that occasionally tripped him up on The Favourite but here suits the material as seen from the wonder-struck point of view of Bella’s questing self.” – Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire

“Robbie Ryan’s celluloid-shot images draw surprises and subtle depths out of the visual inventions in a film of extraordinary texture, in which every conceivable surface and property in the design, by James Price and Shona Heath, has its own arresting aesthetic finish.” – Jonathan Romney, Screen International

“James Price and Shona Heath’s sets are marvels of invention that treat the idea of period as a sandbox in which to run riot with a full range of architectural and decorative styles.” – David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“Holly Waddington’s baroque, often color-coded costumes are to die for.” – Donald Clarke, Irish Times

Are there any other major criticisms?

“Its relentless style risks exhaustion. As do a few moments of corny indulgence.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“There is a sense of a successful project striving a little too hard for a cheap wow.” – Donald Clarke, Irish Times

Poor Things premiered at the Venice International Film Festival on September 1, 2023 and opens in theaters on December 8, 2023.

Thumbnail image by Searchlight Pictures

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