Disclaimer: Personally, I do not believe you will get the full effect of what this film is trying to do unless you watch “X” first. “X” provides so many underlying concepts and intricacies to who Pearl is as a character that I believe is a must watch first, or you may not enjoy everything this film has to offer.
“An X-traordinary Origin Story” is what this film is billed as, and I am keen to agree. A little over 60 years before pornographic startup actress ‘Maxine Minx’ is even a though in her mother’s eye, Pearl’s story of the Hollywood dream begins. It’s 1918, just before the end of The Great War. A young farmgirl Pearl is seen in technicolor. From the lavish introductory credits, to the rollout of intimate solo dance routines by herself; we can tell that Pearl needs to become a star, “…to be in the pictures”. Pearl lives with her parents, her very strict German mother, and her disabled father who is bound by his wheelchair unable to make judgments for himself. Pearl endures the torture she gets from her abusive mother just to get a chance to ride into town to “…see the pictures” as she affectionately thinks to herself. One day, Pearl’s mother needs her to ride into town to gather more liquid morphine for her dad. Pearl excitedly jumps for joy at the thought of going to town to secretly view films unbeknownst to her mother or father.
The whimsical 1920’s soundtrack of the early portion of the movie conveys such a ‘yellow-brick-road’ for Pearl, as we are already vibing through the color palette of what’s in her mind. The first half of the movie insists that we stay in this fairytale mind frame that Pearl has imagined, just for us. There are vibrant colors abound, from the paint on her family’s barn, to the artistic vision of an old film theater in 1918. You may even think that this movie isn’t exactly a horror film after all, especially during the first half. Pearl is navigating adolescence like a figure skater about to initiate their first jump and twirl for their audience. We, the audience, are already along for the ride Pearl is taking us on. She dreams of stardom, and love, and friendship; but isn’t quite able to get herself there.
From the very start of this film; I was very intrigued. To bounce off of what we know in the 1970’s from “X”, to go all the way back to 1918 is done with care, and prestige. Ti West is on his ‘A’ game when it comes to these two films, and now that it has been announced that there will be a third; I couldn’t be more excited. What makes Pearl so delectable; is the ability for this film to be completely off a different road than “X”.Both of these films, though related, are completely different from one another. “X” is a film that is a dark and ominous slasher right from the jump, and we knew that going in from the trailer. Pearl is almost more of a love story, a drama with horror elements. We can almost sympathize with Pearl as she struggles with trying to find herself, and become who she wants to be, yet ultimately failing to get there. We aren’t thrust as an audience into a slasher, but yet we already had a notion that Pearl would not become a good person in the end.
I may be slightly biased because of loving “X”and enjoying who Pearl was as a character, but I genuinely think that Pearl is a fantastic movie to tie to Ti West’s belt. Ti’s ability to morph different genres together, while also merging taboo subjects like Porn, and becoming highly sexualized in the early 1910’s is astonishing. The way “X” and Pearl are related, yet feel like completely different projects is so much fun, and it’s all held on the back of its actors and actresses, especially Mia Goth herself playing Pearl. Would I recommend this movie? Yes, but not without stipulation. If you liked “X” and want to know more about who Pearl was to become who she is, then I feel like this film is a must see. If you didn’t care much for “X”, then I don’t think this movie will sway you unfortunately.