HomeNewsFeline Films | January-February 2024

Feline Films | January-February 2024

January 31, 2024

Collin Cougar

hero for article

Hello Cougars! I hope you are all having an excellent start to the spring semester. It is both awards season for films and the season of love, so to celebrate I’ve chosen a film for each occasion. "Poor Things," directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, has made a splash at awards shows this year, and the critically-acclaimed romantic comedy "(500) Days of Summer" directed by Marc Webb is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. So, without further ado, let's sink our fangs into these two films for this edition of Feline Films!

Poor Things (2023) [R]

Poor Things, released at the end of last year, is Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ eighth feature film. It is based on a novel of the same name by Alasdair Gray and was adapted for the screen by Tom McNamara. Set in Victorian-era London, the narrative revolves around Bella Baxter, a young woman resurrected with an infant’s brain by the brilliant yet peculiar doctor Godwin Baxter, or "God" for short, after her suicide. This Frankenstein-esque film features Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Ruffalo in starring roles, and it explores themes of female sexuality, identity, and morality.

The visuals in Poor Things are breathtakingly beautiful. It flips back and forth from a rich, grainy black-and-white, to a vibrant colorful landscape. The black-and-white is primarily used inside God’s mansion, demonstrating what Bella doesn't get to experience while trapped in his mansion. The intricate steampunk production design is essential to the film’s ambiance. The set and costume design are elegantly detailed, and the savvy use of CGI and wide-angle lenses gives the viewer an other-worldly experience, creating an uncanny-valley-like atmosphere that feels almost real... but not quite.

The film’s dialogue also adds this unique universe. For most of the film, the characters speak in Victorian-style English, but on occasion, they slip into a more modern manner of speaking, giving the film a time and setting the audience can’t quite place. Jerskin Fendrix’s piercing and haunting Academy Award-nominated score also contributes to the bizarreness of the movie, keeping the viewer on edge.

The acting performances in Poor Things are astonishingly good, particularly Stone’s no-holds-barred portrayal of Bella. Since Bella is such a quirky character, Stone’s performance could easily feel cartoonish, but she commits to the character’s eccentricity while keeping Bella grounded in reality. Dafoe unsurprisingly delivers a perfect sympathetic portrayal of Godwin, the mad scientist who parallels the iconic Dr. Frankenstein. Ruffalo also gives a standout performance as the over-the-top smug lawyer, Duncan, and the chemistry between Ruffalo and Stone makes for a fun dynamic.

While the film has many stunning qualities, its ambition exceeds its execution at times. Poor Things is a hefty two hours and 20 minutes, and the plot covers many ideas and concepts, which can feel messy and disorganized. Female sexual liberation is a prevalent topic throughout the film, which provides an interesting analysis on sexual development, but the amount of sex and nudity feels gratuitous. Additionally, despite Bella being in an adult woman’s body, the development of her mental age is unknown throughout the film. Lanthimos said in an interview that Bella's mental age is in her late teens when she becomes sexually active. However, because this timeline isn’t clear in the film, these sex scenes are uncomfortable to watch.

Ultimately, Poor Things is a bizarre and polarizing, but well-made film. Lanthimos is known for his unique style and strange ideas, and Poor Things exceeds that expectation. Despite its flaws, it is one of the most creative films released since the pandemic and well-deserving of its 11 nominations at the 96th Academy Awards. If you’re a fan of cinema, Poor Things is a must-watch film, regardless of whether you love or hate it.

8 paws out of 10

(500) Days of Summer (2009) [PG-13]

Released fifteen years ago in 2009, (500) Days of Summer is a romantic comedy directed by Marc Webb. Despite being an independent production, the film became a sleeper hit among audiences and critics alike. It stars Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and follows the story of a hopeless romantic, Tom, who falls intensely in love with Summer, who doesn’t feel the same way about him. While it is a romantic comedy, the film explicitly warns the audience upfront that “this is not a love story.”

The plot jumps back and forth in time within the 500 days of Tom and Summer’s “relationship.” It follows a nonlinear narrative structure much like the 1977 classic romantic comedy, Annie Hall, from which this film undoubtedly pulled inspiration. The tale of Summer and Tom is one we’ve all experienced before. Often in relationships, people who don’t want the same things stay together out of fear of being alone, despite knowing things are unlikely to work.

(500) Days of Summer captures the harsh realities of relationships, subverting the expectations of typical Hollywood romantic comedies. It is one of the most realistic on-screen romances because nothing horrible happens in their relationship. No one cheats. There are no huge fights. In fact, Summer and Tom have lots in common and get along well, but things simply don’t work out for them, and that’s often how things play out in real life.

Tom makes the mistake we've all made. We meet someone, convince ourselves they are “the one,” then we’re disappointed they don’t meet our lofty expectations. It's easy to feel angry at Summer for breaking Tom’s heart, but Tom set himself up to be heartbroken from the beginning. Before even speaking to Summer, he is certain she is “the one.” He wasn’t in love with her, only the idea of her. This concept is showcased in the famous “expectations versus reality” scene, which cleverly utilizes editing and split-screens.

The film features an exceptional soundtrack featuring artists like The Smiths and Regina Spektor, and the lyrics often align with what the characters experience on-screen. For example, in the aforementioned “expectations versus reality” scene, “Hero” by Regina Spektor plays in the background with the lyrics “I’m the hero of the story” which reflects Tom’s selfishness.

While Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel are charming as the leads, their characters are underdeveloped. The audience doesn’t see the characters, particularly Summer, outside the context of their relationship. Some critics consider Summer a “manic pixie dream girl” character, because it seems her sole purpose is to teach Tom a lesson. The audience never sees things from her perspective. The film also has moments of cheesy dialogue that feel a bit cringeworthy, like at the end when Tom meets a new girl named Autumn.

In the end, (500) Days of Summer is not a perfect movie, but it is an authentic portrayal of real-life relationships. The film is relatable and fun to watch from start to finish, and it also has a lot to teach the viewer about relationships in their own life. If you love romantic comedies, (500) Days of Summer is absolutely worth watching.

8 paws out of 10

The reviews above were written by Bridget Tooley, who is a student at Collin College. Collin College News is thankful for her valuable contribution.