Like Greta Gerwig’s pink-drenched billion-dollar hit, the 19th-century comedy follows a young woman who rails against the patriarchy, stakes her independence as a free-thinking woman, and has her eyes opened to all the beauties and horrors of humanity.
Her journey to getting there, though, couldn’t be more different than Margot Robbie’s titular plastic doll.
Shortly after meeting Bella Baxter (Stone), we learn she was once a mom-to-be who committed suicide and has now been reanimated with the brain of her unborn infant. We then watch her gradual transformation from a tantrum-prone woman-child to a Victorian society lady with a ravenous sexual appetite.
Much of the R-rated film is devoted to Bella’s sexual liberation, as she embarks on an erotic walkabout through Europe and beds all sorts of men and women. Along the way, she frees herself from oppressive relationships and discovers a vast spectrum of human emotions and experiences, which inspires her to try to make a difference in the world.
During a post-screening Q&A at New York Film Festival Friday, “Poor Things” director Yorgos Lanthimos explained his approach to the movie’s numerous explicit sex scenes.
“It was a very important part of her journey,” Lanthimos told journalists. “It felt that we shouldn’t shy away from it. It would feel very disingenuous to tell this story about this character who was so free and so open, and then be prude about the sexual aspects of it. So it was clear from the script, and my discussions with Emma, that there should be no judgment.”
Stone, who was not in attendance because of the ongoing actors’ strike, first collaborated with Lanthimos on 2018’s “The Favourite.” She is also an executive producer on this movie. The Greek filmmaker lavished praise on her go-for-broke performance, which is widely expected to net Stone her fourth Oscar nomination. She also stands a very strong shot at her second best actress win (after 2016’s “La La Land").
“Emma is unique and extraordinary,” Lanthimos said. “You can’t tell someone how to do this. I was just amazed by her.”
“Poor Things” is adapted by Tony McNamara (“The Favourite”) from Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel, which Lanthimos first read in 2009 and has wanted to develop since. He says he “immediately fell in love” with the feminist Frankenstein riff, and how it gives Bella “a second chance at life to experience the world on her own terms.”
The film was initially slated to open in theaters earlier this month, before moving to its new date on Dec. 8. It has become an all-out critical sensation in recent weeks, with 98% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and a best film prize at the Venice Film Festival.
Most Oscar pundits predict the movie will land a best picture nomination. Willem Dafoe, playing Bella’s kindly "creator," and Mark Ruffalo, as her detestable suitor, are also firmly in the conversation for best supporting actor.
Stone, 34, is all over this year’s New York Film Festival lineup. In addition to “Poor Things,” she stars in a new black-and-white short called “Bleat,” which is also directed by Lanthimos. “The Curse,” her HGTV-inspired dark comedy, will premiere later in the fest as well. The Showtime series co-stars Nathan Fielder and streams on Paramount+ beginning Nov. 10.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Emma Stone's 'Poor Things' movie doesn't 'shy away' from sex, nudity