See the biggest differences between Alastair Gray’s 1992 novel and the Oscar-nominated film starring Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo
One of the buzziest films of this year’s Oscar season is Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things.
The 2023 movie, which stars Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Mark Ruffalo and Ramy Youssef, is a humorous, bizarre take on Frankenstein.
Poor Things follows Bella Baxter (Stone), a woman who is created when Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), a scientist and mortician, places the brain of a deceased woman’s baby into her body after she dies by suicide. Youssef plays Max McCandles, Godwin’s assistant who is tasked with observing Bella's behavior, and in so doing, falls in love with her.
Ruffalo is Duncan Wedderburn, a lawyer who takes Bella on a European adventure and becomes deeply enamored with her as well.
“It started with about three weeks of rehearsal, which was just playing theater games, really, and goofing off and cutting up. [That] gave us the feeling of safety with each other and a feeling of fun," Ruffalo told PEOPLE of what it was like on the film set.
Poor Things is nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Stone is nominated for Best Actress and Ruffalo for Best Supporting Actor. Lanthimos is also in the running for Best Director.
Lanthimos, however, did take some liberties with the film, which was adapted from Alastair Gray’s 1992 novel of the same name.
Read on for the biggest differences between the book and movie.
Warning: Major spoilers for the novel and film Poor Things
The movie is not solely told from Max’s point of view (and his name wasn’t originally Max)
The original novel, while a work of fiction, is structured as if it was written by Scottish medical student Archibald McCandless, who was renamed Max McCandles for the movie. Archibald recounts his friendship with scientist Godwin Baxter and his creation, Bella. Medical illustrations and letters from Bella are also included in the book.
The movie, however, expands that perspective and follows multiple characters, with a larger focus on Bella and her view of the world. Her letters, which are sent to Godwin and Max at Godwin's London estate, also feature in the film.
A few characters from the book are cut (and some are added)
The novel includes a variety of curious characters who don’t make it into the movie including Dr. Hooker, an American professor with colonialist values and Blaydon Hattersley, the father of Victoria Blessington, the woman who Bella's body originally belongs to.
The movie also sees the addition of a few characters, including Felicity (Margaret Qualley), a woman who Godwin creates while Bella is traveling with Duncan.
Bella returns home from London for different reasons
Both the book and movie feature scenes in Paris, which Bella and Duncan visit together. While in the city, Bella finds a job as a sex worker to make money. In the film, Bella only returns home to England in the film once Godwin falls gravely ill, which leads to her wedding to Max. In the novel, she returns after sending a long letter to Archibald about her trip abroad.
Bella’s wedding plays out differently
Bella’s wedding also plays out differently in the book and the film. In the novel, Victoria’s father, Blaydon Hattersley, and her first husband, General Sir Aubrey de la Pole Blessington, show up unexpectedly on the wedding day. While they initially object to the ceremony, the men eventually acquiesce to letting Bella stay at Godwin’s estate.
The film plays out more dramatically. Duncan, who has experienced a nervous breakdown after traveling with Bella, objects to the wedding. He brings along Blessington, played by Christopher Abbott, who is renamed Alfie Blessington for the movie.
The ending of the movie differs from the book
While both the novel and the movie end with the aftermath of Bella’s wedding, the film takes a different turn. Bella initially leaves Max at the altar and decides to return to her/Victoria’s old life with Alfie. Bella quickly sees why Victoria initially left Alfie, who is intensely controlling. She shoots Alfie and takes him back to Godwin’s estate where she swaps Alfie’s brain with the brain of a goat and lives happily on the property with Max.
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In the novel, Bella also ends up with Archibald, but the novel ends with Godwin’s death instead. The book also features two additional sections: a letter from Bella to her future descendants about errors she finds in Archibald's version of their story and an appendix from author Gray.
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