Oscars mystery: How often do performances like Emma Stone in ‘Poor Things’ win?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Emma Stone delivers a powerhouse performance in Yorgos Lanthimos‘ latest hit, “Poor Things.” The Searchlight Pictures production, which releases in US theaters on December 8, showcases Stone as Bella Baxter, a re-animated woman on a quest to discover life and herself. Willem Dafoe‘s scientist brings her back to life while Ramy Youssef and Mark Ruffalo feature as helpers and hinderers in her exploration of life.

But the movie belongs to Stone, who reunites with Lanthimos after they worked together on “The Favourite.” She is once more saying the words of Tony McNamara, who co-wrote “The Favourite” with Deborah Davis and Stone’s “Cruella” with Dana Fox. Stone’s performance has been touted as one of the very best of her career by many critics.

More from GoldDerby

Nick Schager (The Daily Beast) declared that Stone will “blow your mind” in the movie, writing: “Nothing overshadows Stone’s odd, amusing and affecting performance as Bella, a beautiful beast who’s equal parts enchanting and—to those who expect her to conform to misogynistic standards—threatening. Whether in the nude or wearing one of her colorfully opulent outfits, many of them pairing puffy-shouldered coats and robes with short skirts and pants, Stone embodies Bella as a living, breathing perpetual mutation machine.”

David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter) observed: “Emma Stone gorges on it in a fearless performance that traces an expansive arc most actors could only dream about… 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.”

Ryan Lattanzio (Indie Wire) noted: “Stone, in her most brazenly weird performance to date, plays her like a toddler taking its first steps and saying its first words — until by the end of ‘Poor Things’ she’s speaking fluent French and studying anatomy, her eyes and ears full of worldliness…At their center is a delightfully off-the-rails Emma Stone turn, proof that whatever cracked frequency she and Lanthimos are riding on, their alchemy is the real deal.”

Stone’s performance is a truly complex one. As her character progresses and develops so, too, does Stone’s performance. At first, Stone utilizes her physicality to brilliant effect, particularly as Bella can’t speak very well for at least the first act as she begins to learn about language. Stone wields physicality to the same effect that Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton did — expressing character and comedy at once through her precise, dramatic movements. The height of this comes in a stunning dance sequence with Ruffalo’s caddish lawyer Duncan Wedderburn. The dance scene trumps even the one with Rachel Weisz and Joe Alwyn in “The Favourite.”

Stone also wields excellent comedic timing, whether it’s a well-timed punch or a one-liner that punches the scene with wit. Later on in the film, as Bella progresses to more sophisticated language, she gets to utilize McNamara’s wordplay with more complex speeches. And thanks to Stone’s physical work earlier on in the film, her eloquence with language in the third act keeps the performance feeling as fresh as ever.

Stone’s role, truly, is a unique one. But does that help or hinder her when it comes to Oscar chances? Well, let’s take a look back at some performances that contended in both Best Actor and Best Actress that have some similarities with Stone’s.

Firstly, last year’s Best Actress winner, Michelle Yeoh, combined comedy with physical work (her fight scenes were wonderfully choreographed and executed) and a heavy dose of eccentricity. Scenes with sex toys and hot dogs for fingers are plenty eccentric, yet Yeoh still found the heart and soul of the character. This shows that the academy is willing to embrace the more eccentric performances, which Yeoh’s and Stone’s certainly are.

Then there’s the obvious one: Olivia Colman. She won Best Actress for “The Favourite” in 2019, proving that the academy does indeed like lead actresses working in Lanthimos’ idiosyncratic filmmaking style. Colman turned in a very funny performance herself, nailing McNamara’s dialogue. Stone would be an obvious follow-up.

Nicole Kidman was nominated for Best Actress in 2022 for “Being the Ricardos.” Of course, this was a dialogue-heavy drama from writer-director Aaron Sorkin, known for his dialogue, but Kidman still had to channel the physical comedy genius of Lucille Ball during certain scenes. That was a key part of the character and the role.

Similarly, Leonardo DiCaprio had a killer sequence in “The Wolf of Wall Street” that utilized the actor’s gift for physical comedy. This was when his character, Jordan Belfort, was high on quaaludes and had to drag himself out of a hotel, into his car, and then across a kitchen floor to wrestle a phone out of Jonah Hill‘s hands. It was one of the highlights of the film and showed a different side to DiCaprio’s talents. The actor was nominated for Best Actor for this performance in 2014.

Joaquin Phoenix won Best Actor in 2020 for “Joker.” That role featured several sequences wherein Phoenix articulated so much about his character through his physical work — exemplified by the bathroom dance sequence.

And Sally Hawkins was nominated for Best Actress in 2018 for “The Shape of Water” — her character was mute in that film, so she relied solely on her facial expressions and body language to communicate her character’s emotions, similar to how Stone does in the first act of “Poor Things.”

And then there are two Oscar-winning performances that stand out above the others. Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” (2011) and Jean Dujardin in “The Artist” (2012). Portman plays a ballet dancer in “Black Swan” and, as such, her performance lies heavily on physical work. And Dujardin plays a film star in the silent film “The Artist.” He has to rely on facial expressions, body language, dance sequences, and choreographed physical comedy set pieces to tell the story through his character. And he does it in a very funny performance. He draws out so much comedy through his body language and physicality, just as Chaplin or Keaton did, and watching Stone’s performance reminds one greatly of Dujardin in “The Artist.”

So, while Stone’s performance in “Poor Things” certainly does feel one of a kind, there are traits and characteristics that are shared with plenty of other Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning performances from a variety of stars. That’s great news for Stone, who is currently at the very top of our predicted Oscars odds chart, above the likes of Lily Gladstone (“Killers of the Flower Moon”), Carey Mulligan (“Maestro”), Sandra Hüller (“Anatomy of a Fall”), and Fantasia Barrino (“The Color Purple”).

Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify Hollywood chiefs and stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where 5,000 showbiz leaders lurk every day to track latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?

SIGN UP for Gold Derby’s free newsletter with latest predictions

Best of GoldDerby

Sign up for Gold Derby's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.