“What was I made for?”
Though that’s a lyric crooned by Billie Eilish during the climax of “Barbie,” it could just as easily be a question asked by Bella Baxter, the protagonist of “Poor Things.” Played by Emma Stone in this new movie from the director Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”), Bella’s back story is a doozy: She’s a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts, saved after suicide when she’s discovered by a demented doctor (Willem Dafoe) who replaces her brain with the one of the unborn child growing inside her.
And you thought Barbie’s creation myth was head-spinning!
“Poor Things,” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Friday, often plays like a wild, art-house remix of Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster doll opus. It, too, is about a sheltered, childlike woman whose quest for knowledge forces her to venture out into the real world, where the complicated politics of gender both appall and fascinate her.
But this is no family film: As baby-brained Bella…