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What’s gotten into Emma Stone?

Poor Things

Starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Kathryn Hunter, Christopher Abbott, Jerrod Carmichael, Hanna Schygulla, Margaret Qualley, Suzy Bemba and Vicki Pepperdine. Written by Tony McNamara. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Opens Friday in Toronto theatres (with Thursday previews). 141 minutes. 18A

⭐️⭐️⭐️½ (out of four)

Peter Howell

Movie Critic

Let’s start with the sugar tarts, which is close to where Emma Stone’s wild ride commences in “Poor Things,” the audacious new film by Greek absurdist Yorgos Lanthimos.

Stone’s freedom-seeking lead character, Bella Baxter, is visiting Lisbon, her first stop on a hedonistic exploration of a 19th-century gothic world, in the company of Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), a lascivious and pompous lawyer.

He introduces her to sugar tarts, a local delicacy: “They must not be eaten dainty flake by dainty flake, but inhaled with gusto, like life itself,” he instructs.

Bella, unrestrained and unfiltered, jams a whole tart into her mouth, declares it to be “incredible” and demands more. Wedderburn insists on moderation: “One’s enough. Any more is too much.” Bella soon finds a way around that edict.

This contradictory exchange defines the movie. Bella, an adult woman with a baby’s brain, for reasons explained early on, wants to “inhale with gusto” all of life’s pleasures — which include food, sex, dancing and freely expressing opinions — while the baffled Victorian-era males around her insist she avoid being “too much,” whatever that means.


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