Respond to these rapid questions in our Pearl quiz and we will tell you which Pearl character you are. Play it now.
Pearl (Mia Goth) will never comprehend why something is wrong with her. She’s too set in her ways, whether it’s her urge to dance with a pitchfork while performing on haystacks or her tendency to butcher animals while no one is looking. She aspires to leave her remote farm in 1918 Texas and encounter the love that comes with performing and being perceived as an entertainer rather as one’s genuine self. It’s unlikely that any of her future celebrity biographies would ever include that she once used a pitchfork to impale a duck, then feed the bird to her best buddy, an alligator (as we see when her name splashed across the screen in the opening credits).
The terrifying nature of actors who feed the destructive desire to be noticed at all costs is the subject of Ti West’s “Pearl.” Given that we already know she survives to 1979 in West’s “X,” it is only right that the film’s most spectacular scene, which also happens to be its closing shot, features Goth manipulating her face for ominous purposes. It’s a big, forced smile; her teeth indicate joy, but her jerkily twitching facial muscles and welling tears, all while locked in that desperation, imply something much scarier. When the titles roll, director Adam West forces us to look at it. It’s all outrageously, beautifully unsettling, and one wishes this character study would work harder to get that impression even while delivering a narrative that isn’t as complex as its final, wordless plea for assistance.
However, given how overtly portraying a monster the plot and dialogue from co-writers West and Goth can be, it can be entertaining to read Pearl’s declarations throughout her movie as double-speak from an actor and a serial killer, such as “The whole world is going to know my name,” “I don’t like reality,” and “All I want is to be loved.” Goth expresses these findings using a breathy, thickly accented voice that is intended to make Pearl sound somewhat naïve and naive, a carbon duplicate of the countless Pearls out there. Goth makes these revelations count in primitive showcases. Later, a long-running close-up of Goth takes us on a crazy ride through her concerns of being her true self and her anxieties about not being loved. She is oblivious that the unexpected turn within her is going to happen, especially after someone makes her feel tiny. Then they pay the price for it.
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People who watched “X” this year will recall the farm where a few people from adult films perished as well as the elderly Goth Pearl, who was frequently exposed, rejected, and took everything very personally for a series of incidents a la “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” The few murders in “Pearl” are more deliberate and serve as climaxes to scenes depicting her own frustration, anger, and rejection. As the camera slowly spins at one point in anticipation of Pearl entering the picture, West makes those minutes matter by evoking fear. His editing is also cruel. They’re designed to be played as dark comedies, typically taking place in Pearl’s psychosis and in broad daylight. Even though the tone of the mix isn’t as tragic as it could be, the murders are nonetheless successfully bracing.
Similar shots are used of the house as in “X,” but Eliot Rockett’s photography transforms it into a world of possibilities and blazing Technicolor. This includes vivid green grass, a farmhouse painted blood red, and Pearl wearing blue overalls as she fantasizes of escaping. Inside the house, where Pearl’s existence of loneliness and extreme unhappiness is not an aberration, things are less rosy. Her father (Matthew Sunderland), who is ill and verbally incapacitated, requires constant care. While “Pearl” is a horror film, Goth’s character also has a villain of her own in the form of Ruth, who was brilliantly portrayed by Tandi Wright in “Mommy Dearest” with a suffocating contempt.
Also, you will find out which character are you in this Pearl quiz.
Evil’s ploy in “X” and “Pearl” is repression; it pushes connection, pleasure, and so many other productive things even more out of reach. It results in fatalities. In a breathtaking centerpiece moment where everything is laid out on a dinner table, Ruth contributes to making sense of the tragedy in this world. She tears apart Pearl’s dreams of ever escaping, assigns her failures, and yells about her own enormous displeasure with the life she has accepted. The thunderous storms outside appear to be under her words’ visceral power. It’s a perfect turning moment for Pearl and a standout performance by Goth and Wright.
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Even simply the idea of being in a movie provides Pearl with an escape from everything else. She visits the city when her father needs more medication and gets to see one in person, which gives her dreams of being the happy, dancing woman in the picture. She also runs across a handsome projectionist (David Corenswet), who gives her the impression that she may be a movie star but who eventually reveals his intentions. Pearl tells him in wistful tones that she wants to be a celebrity, still as naive and needy as ever. Here, we just have to put our faith in Goth and West’s commitment to this character and know that they will ultimately support her.
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In West’s movie, people are wearing masks and staying in their homes since the Spanish Flu has spread to the United States. There’s a nagging impression that the movie is so self-amused that it’s essentially luring people who see old movies in theaters to laugh at the mannerisms and niceties of bygone times, despite the production design, which includes those automobiles, gowns, and even a full-out dance scene. It can be done in various ways, such as with the stunning, nonstop score by Tyler Bates and Tim Williams that opens with an opulent main theme, but “Pearl’s” visual gambit comes off as more adorable than engrossing.
There are simply too many instances where “Pearl’s” genuineness is called into question. Yes, it offers Goth an enticing opportunity to develop an intriguing character, to reveal a performer’s emotions and needs, and for us to track her emotional movements like a slasher. However, “Pearl’s” execution is more shaky in terms of what it wants us to conclude from her illusions, her violent outbursts, and her desire for love. “Pearl” comes dangerously close to allowing you to mock her. She wouldn’t enjoy that, as we are aware.
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