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Nobody Else Is Doing What Emma Stone Is Doing Right Now | Features




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Stone signed on as a producer of “Poor Things,” making her, Margot Robbie and Bradley Cooper the three actors who got Best Picture nominations this year for the films they starred in. It’s a hat she’s been wearing a lot lately, forming Fruit Tree, a production company co-founded with her husband Dave McCary. Over the last couple of months, their logo at the start of a movie has come to be a stamp of approval: What you’re about to see is going to be smart and interesting. At Sundance, they backed Jane Schoenbrun’s “I Saw the TV Glow,” arguably the buzziest film at the festival. Fruit Tree also had a hand in “A Real Pain,” my favorite film from Sundance, which was written and directed by Stone’s “Zombieland” co-star Jesse Eisenberg. (Stone also produced his directorial debut, “When You Finish Saving the World.”) After the premiere of “A Real Pain,” Eisenberg took a moment to thank Stone, who wasn’t able to attend, for giving him an idea for a crucial plot point he had been struggling with. And this weekend, Fruit Tree is one of the companies behind “Problemista,” Julio Torres’ surreal, whimsical examination of immigrant dreams and the weirdness of the art scene. Good on Stone for throwing her support behind thoughtful, adventurous indie films. 

All of that would be enough to sing Stone’s praises, but how can you overlook “The Curse,” which to my mind is an even more stunning work than “Poor Things.” When the series was first announced—Stone teaming up with Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie—it seemed like an odd project for her to take on. Now that I’ve seen it, “The Curse” is unimaginable without her. This may be my favorite thing she’s ever done.

A satire of HGTV, reality television, white privilege, marriage and the kind of people whose do-gooderism is more insufferable than it is actually helpful, “The Curse” stars Stone as Whitney, who alongside her ineffectual, somewhat robotic husband Asher (Fielder) is hosting “Fliplanthropy.” As that title (sorta) suggests, “Fliplanthropy” is a new HGTV series in which Whitney sells prospective homeowners in the impoverished community of Española, New Mexico on the expensive, eco-friendly houses that she’s designed. The outside of them is covered with mirrored glass, and the inside (she claims) doesn’t require air conditioning. (“It’s like a thermos!” she explains, which reassures no one.) Fancying herself an artist and an activist, Whitney is all about responsible stewardship and preserving the traditions of the Native peoples who first occupied this land—ideals she advocates for in such a cheery, pious way that you instantly wonder what she’s hiding. 

Created by Fielder and Safdie, with Stone and her husband serving as executive producers, “The Curse” is a killer synthesis of the two men’s sensibilities: The show is as discomforting as you’d expect from the people responsible for “The Rehearsal” and “Uncut Gems.” Safdie plays Dougie, a somewhat skeezy veteran director of reality television who’s Asher’s old friend, each of these actors playing variations on characters you’ve seen from them before. But as good as Fielder is as a timid, awkward husband with a scary angry streak, it’s Stone who rules the show. You’ve seen glimpses of this Stone in previous performances. And yet, it’s different—more proof that she isn’t about to stop surprising us with what she can do.

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