Pearl; Almost X-traordinary


Have you ever watched the Wizard of Oz and thought to yourself “Man, wouldn’t this movie be so much better if it was more violent and disturbing?” If so, first off what’s wrong with you? Also, you’ll probably love the new film from Ti West “Pearl,” a whimsical nightmare exploring how someone can go completely insane in their obsession with fame. This film had an interesting behind-the-scenes story, as it is a prequel to a movie that came out in February, as the movie was filmed at the same time as its successor, “X.” Both films also star Mia Goth as the main character, playing the lead in Pearl, the lead in X, and the main villain in X. Goth’s passion for these projects shines through in her incredible performances in these movies, with so much heart and talent poured into all of the characters that make her incredibly fun to watch, especially in Pearl.
The film, unsurprisingly, follows Pearl, a young and ambitious girl with dreams of being a pretty girl in the movies and having everyone love her. This ambition comes from her feeling trapped on her farmstead, having to care for her animals and terminally ill father driving her more and more insane throughout the film. What starts as a dream becomes more disturbing as Pearl stops at nothing to achieve her goals, however, this is where the film becomes much more interesting, as despite being a horror film it never drops its dream-like fissade. This is where the comparison to the Wizard of Oz becomes incredibly apparent, as even the description of a young, ambitious girl living on a farm who rides her bike into town and even becomes friends with a scarecrow (sort of) is a direct reference to the Wizard of Oz. Pearl basically serves as the film to watch Dorothy become the Wicked Witch of the West, something even mirrored in the film with the bike rides Pearl takes becoming more darkly lit and having a more ominous score as the film progresses.
This dream-like presentation of the film makes it incredibly fun to watch, as the vibrance and brightness in each scene make it unlike any other horror movie (besides maybe Ari Aster’s “Midsommar”), so when the scary stuff does eventually happen it becomes much more disturbing. However, there is a trade-off with this effect, as the film isn’t really that scary. Granted, it really isn’t trying to be and there is enough going for the film to make it not need to be scary, but depending on what you are seeing the film for this could be very disappointing.
Another fault with this film is something that is probably somewhat predictable, yet still worth pointing out, it’s almost required that you have to watch X to get the most out of the film. There are lots of callbacks, references, and context for things that happen in X, particularly the constant pursuit of the “American Dream,” as well as what the American Dream means to different people. So if you’ve seen X then you’ll probably get a lot more out of Pearl. However, I saw this coming, so I brought a friend who hadn’t seen X to get a genuine, unbiased opinion, and while she didn’t understand the references and said that some of the threads were left open in the film she still enjoyed Pearl for what it was, going to show how even if Pearl becomes better after you watch X, it still holds up on its own and is immensely entertaining.
Even with these faults, Pearl is incredibly interesting and has a lot more layers than people might give it credit for. It has such incredible presentation and personality that it leads to a consistent feeling of uncomfortable, yet dream-like bliss that is impossible to find anywhere else. It’s also worth mentioning again how much Mia Goth’s performance absolutely carries this film, with her passion shining through in an interesting, scary, and most of all whimsical character that will undoubtedly become iconic. So, with all this said, start the Halloween season off by going to see this incredibly fun, interesting look at the insanity and the borderline suicidal pursuit of fame and the American Dream.