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‘Poor Things’ could add to Emma Stone’s Oscar riches

Yorgos Lanthimos has made a dynamite return to the big screen with his new movie “Poor Things,” which is another distinct entry into the filmography of the idiosyncratic, visionary director. The movie tells the tale of Bella Baxter (Emma Stone), a young woman in the Victorian era who is brought back to life by Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). She must find her place in life along the way, coming into contact with a number of other colorful characters, including Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) and Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef). The film has received fantastic reviews, not least for Stone herself, with many critics calling the role her best to date.

David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter) explained: “Emma Stone gorges on it in a fearless performance that traces an expansive arc most actors could only dream about.” He continued: “Stone’s gift for physical comedy has never been tapped to this extent, whether Bella is rushing at something faster than her uncertain limbs can carry her, gleefully smashing plates, getting to grips with a kipper, bopping Max on the nose by way of an introduction or even just spreading herself on the ground to feel the new sensation of a carpet of leaves.”

Guy Lodge (Variety) proclaimed that it was an “astonishing” performance from Stone, writing: “Molding Bella before our eyes from infancy to adolescence to adulthood — her speech, bearing and body language all intricately evolving from one scene to the next — she tackles grand-scale physical comedy (including a hall-of-fame-level dance sequence between her and Ruffalo) with gusto, all while marking the character’s growing, sinking sense of reality with a steadily hardening gaze. Any less brave or brazen a performance would likely sink amid the veritable firework display of formal technique and trickery.”

Jane Crowther (Total Film) observed: “With a cascade of black hair framing her pale face and her body often exposed, the character could – in the hands of a lesser actor – elicit audience pity, or conjure a disquieting sense of exploitation. But thanks to Stone’s determined jaw, comedic timing, and physical dexterity (her frenzied dancing and drunken tottering are Keaton-level masterful), the joke is always turned on the men who seek to harness Bella… the star of the show (in every way) is always Stone, in a performance that pushes both her, and us, beyond any comfort zone.”

As a result of these enthusiastic reviews, Stone has shot up our Oscars odds chart for Best Actress — right into second place. She is behind only Fantasia Barrino, who stars in “The Color Purple.” Stone sits ahead of Sandra Hüller (“Anatomy of a Fall”), Greta Lee (“Past Lives”), and Carey Mulligan (“Maestro”), while Margot Robbie (“Barbie”) has dropped out of our predicted five nominees entirely.

Stone may not be donning extensive make-up or prosthetics but it is still a transformative role, which we know the academy likes. Past nominees pulling off such a feat include Ana de Armas in “Blonde,” Kristen Stewart in “Spencer,” Jessica Chastain in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (she won), and Charlize Theron in “Bombshell.” Stone’s performance is also a very physical one — impressively so. She demonstrates here that not only can she handle accents and emotional work, but that she is a wonderful physical actress. Voters will appreciate this, too, the same way they appreciated the physical acting seen in Cate Blanchett‘s performance in “Tár,” Michelle Yeoh‘s performance in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (she won), and Nicole Kidman in “Being the Ricardos.”

Stone also has a great Oscars history — she won Best Actress in 2017 for “La La Land,” which featured impressive dancing and singing skills (more physical acting) alongside great acting. Before that, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for “Birdman” in 2015. She was nominated in the same category in 2019 for “The Favourite,” which was her first collaboration with Lanthimos. The academy clearly likes the combination of Lanthimos and Stone. It would make sense for them to go for that team-up again this year. Plus, Lanthimos’ actors do well at the Oscars. His last feature film, “The Favourite,” earned Best Supporting Actress bids for Stone and Rachel Weisz while Olivia Colman won Best Actress. Could Lanthimos make it two films in a row to win Best Actress? Stone will certainly be hoping so.

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