Dir. Ti West (2022)
A prequel for X, Pearl tells the story of a young woman who just wants to be a star.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
X has been my favorite movie of the year so far, an excellent throwback to slashers from the 80's that hit every single note that it needed to hit to light up my brain like a pinball machine. Pearl, brilliantly filmed at the same time and scheduled for release later in the same year as X, had a lot to live up to, but boy did it. It's a completely different movie, one that plays more off of the medium of film itself than the tropes of horror. And my god, Mia Goth...
The major lasting impression I get from Pearl is a serious question that I think will need to be answered: is this finally enough? Will this finally do it? Is there anything else that horror actors need to do to prove that they deserve an Oscar? Is it even possible to watch Mia Goth in this movie not at least nominate her for an Academy Award? In Pearl, Goth delivers what may well be the best performance in horror history. That closing scene is a fucking doozy, and I just couldn't help but sit in my nice reclining theater chair and laugh aloud at how incredible her performance was just in the closing credits! The movie was fantastic, no doubt, but her performance was the cherry on top of the already delicious sundae.
I'm a huge fan of Old Hollywood, largely because of the aesthetic. There's something that's inherently wonderful about the colorful scenery, the celebration of when audiences were able to see those beautiful technicolors for the first time. Those performances that were hammy and scene-chewing because they were exposing audience to film with sound, establishing a method of acting that remained until (arguably) the 60's and 70's. There's not a major difference between Spencer Tracy and Cary Grant, or between Vivien Leigh and Marlene Dietrich. Pearl celebrates these aesthetic and style staples while inserting a bizarre and disturbing undercurrent of a woman who is not quite right in the head.
It's difficult to critique the film separately from Goth's performance because she is so groundbreaking and tremendous. The movie does start slow, and I suppose if you were severely ADD it could be hard to pay enough attention to get to the payoff, but it is worth it like so few movies are. Even if you take Goth's performance out of it, the bloody finale alone is worth the price of admission. It perfectly sets up its sequel, because we know we want to see where this fascinating and crazy-as-hell woman ends up. And man, I can't wait for Maxxxine.
Who this movie is for: Old Hollywood fans, Modern horror lovers, Horny Scarecrows
Bottom line: Filled with great scenes and absolutely astounding acting, Pearl is the Old Hollywood horror movie that you didn't know you needed in your life. It's slow to get started, dedicating plenty of time to building the world in which its titular antihero lives, but once it gets going it becomes a whirlwind of violence and style. Great film, a must see, with one of the best performances of all time from leading lady Mia Goth.