Poor Things cast on its ‘raunchy’ sex scenes

Not everyone is on board with Lanthimos’s bawdy interpretation of the source material, however. In an otherwise positive review, BBC Culture’s Nicholas Barber bemoaned the diminution of the social commentary in Gray’s novel for a more intoxicating approach. “Traces of Gray’s views on feminism and socialism are still visible, but it can be hard to spot them amid the endless sex scenes and the retina-scorching production design” he writes.

While Ann Hornaday writes in The Washington Post that the film enters “ambiguous territory” with Emma Stone’s sex scenes: “As thoroughly committed as Stone is to the bit, there are moments when viewers might wonder for whose benefit she’s baring it all so bravely. As real ideas begin to overtake Bella’s hedonistic instinct, the idea of her finding agency through hyper-sexualisation admittedly feels freeing, but also undeniably gratifying for the men looking through the lens.”

Similarly, Adam Nayman in The Ringer praises Stone, but criticises Lanthimos’s “carefully tasteful (as opposed to thoughtful) deployment of nudity to implicate the viewer (but never himself) in what is essentially a voyeuristic, fetishistic scenario. Because Stone is so good… Poor Things deftly sidesteps any charges of exploitation, but the flip side is that its depravity feels rote. We’re never mortified, just amused.”

However the sex scenes in Poor Things are perceived, the sheer bravery and audacity of Stone’s performance is undeniable; she is currently the strong favourite to take the Academy Award for best actress next March, according to Oscars prediction site Gold Derby. “A tour de force” declares Hannah Strong in Little White Lies, while Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian writes “[Stone] takes it to the next career level”.

And the inimitable Bella Baxter is undoubtedly a role that Emma Stone relished taking on: “My God, she’s the greatest character I’ll probably ever get to play,” she told the New York Times.

Mark Ruffalo, Ramy Youssef and Willem Dafoe spoke to the BBC’s Tom Brook.

Poor Things is on release in the US and will be released in the UK on 16 January.

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