Spoiler alert: the entire plot of “Pearl” and “X” will be covered in this article.
Who would have thought that a dance tryout in church would result in one of the strongest cinematic monologues of the year?
Such is the case with “Pearl”, Ti West’s winding and mind-blowing ode to Technicolor-era film. It’s the prequel to this year’s filthy porn slasher “X,” in which Mia Goth played an aspiring XXX actress as well as a makeup-clad, almost unrecognizable elderly woman named Pearl who ended up killing most of the crew. filming remaining on his farm. In the final film, Goth takes on a third role from Pearl as a young woman.
This serial killer origin story finds Pearl trapped on her family farm in 1918, with her husband Howard a world away from Texas while fighting in the war, leaving her to take care of chores for her strict German immigrant mother and his disabled father. Dreaming of a life dancing on the big screen, she soon becomes a murderer after being scolded by her mother, rebuffed by her projectionist lover, and “mercifully killing” her father, who would be a dead weight on her journey to death. movie star.
Pearl is invited to a church dance audition by her sister-in-law Mitsy (Emma Jenkins-Purro) and, despite an explosive performance, is rejected by the judges because they are looking for a fresh-faced blonde dancer. In an effort to calm a distraught Pearl, Mitsy takes her home and invites her to practice what she would say to Howard so she would feel better, kicking off one of the best scenes of 2022, including a nine-minute monologue. minutes of Goth which gives rise to an acting masterclass.
“I hate you so much for leaving me here, sometimes I hope you die,” Pearl begins abruptly, lost in the fantasy of talking to her soldier husband. “I’m sorry, I feel bad for admitting this, but it’s the truth.” The admission stings the audience more than Pearl’s chops earlier in the film, ringing with the unspoken honesty of a wife facing loneliness and depression as her husband is across the world, his destiny unknown.
“I would like things to go back to the way they were, but I don’t see how they could, not after what I did,” she continues in front of an increasingly unstable Mitsy.
Pearl continues, unguarded and candid about her miscarriage (“I never wanted to be a mother. I hated the feeling that she was growing inside me, I felt like I was sick…I was so relieved when she died”), infidelity and murderous rages.
With the camera locked on her close-up face, the audience constantly thinks of Mitsy across the table, forced to keep a straight face as she hears these taboo statements. As Pearl finishes, lamenting that she’ll likely be stuck on the farm forever, she delivers her fractured mission statement: “All I really want is to be loved.” I’ve had such a hard time letting go of it lately. As Pearl lowers her head, exhausted and silent, Mitsy finds the opportunity to leave the room, but is trapped in one last conversation, as the other shoe falls off and Pearl congratulates her sister-in-law for getting the part of dance.
Although Mitsy denies it, the scene escalates as Pearl urges her blonde cousin to admit her success and even says “I’m happy for you”. Goth diffuses the tension, seeming to come down to earth to find frustration in the situation but not blame his family. But after thinking about it, Pearl grits her teeth and mutters, “You always get what you want,” and it’s clear that poor Mitsy will never get on stage.
The scene recalls the tense opening of Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film “Inglourious Basterds,” in which Nazi Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) has a lengthy discussion with farmer Perrier LaPadite (Denis Ménochet), during which the two sides – and the public – are becoming increasingly certain that there is a Jewish family hiding in the floor of the house, and that things will not end peacefully. This scene ended up being one of the film’s most memorable and started the buzz for Waltz’s first Oscar.
At the start of her monologue, Pearl laments, “The truth is, I’m not really a good person.” While it’s easy to categorize the ax-wielding future movie star that way, the reality is much murkier. She’s a broken person, a loving person, a lonely person at a time in American history when women were meant to be the building blocks in the home. Goth plays a timeless woman who misbehaves, sanding the edges of her personality, her hopes and her desires.
It’s easy to think that Pearl might find a kindred spirit in the titular heroine of Chantal Akerman’s 1975 film “Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Brussels.” In this landmark feminist work, Jeanne lives mundane days doing chores and making ends meet through dissociative sex work, leading to a tragic ending where an unexpected climax leads her to murder a client. The mixture of the banal, the domestic and the erotic, all pulsing towards a tragic end, illuminates the two works.
The startling final scene of “Pearl” – Howard comes home to a table full of Pearl’s victims, his wife eager to greet him – ends with an uninterrupted minute-long shot of Goth grinning from ear to ear. another, every muscle in his face stretched to exaggeration, tears breaking every now and then as his eyes stared into the barrel of the camera. It’s a visual that matches Pearl’s inevitable fate in the decades before “X”: trapped in the Technicolor nightmare of her Texas farmhouse, contorting a smile to distract from the tears. (Another “Jeanne Dielman” parallel: the uninterrupted seven-minute take of Jeanne after she stabs her jeans, which ends the film.)
Despite fan praise and even a co-sign from Martin Scorsese (“I was captivated, then disturbed, then so unsettled I had trouble falling asleep. But I kept watching”), “Pearl seems destined to be overlooked as a serious acting showcase. Horror is eternally ignored when it comes to drawing attention to awards. Some of the most indelible performances of the past decade have been ignored, simply because of genre: Florence Pugh in “Midsommar”, Lupita Nyong’o in “Us”, Toni Collette in “Hereditary”, Anya Taylor-Joy in “The Witch.”
Still, Goth flexes every muscle during the film, nailing moments that are both absurd and heartfelt. For every heartbreaking monologue, there’s a comedic beat around the corner, or just a startling visual of Pearl leaping with a bloody axe. And while the acting categories will inevitably be filled with heartbreaking performances about the pain of growing up or the grief of losing a family member, how many roles call for the lead to accidentally get too high and dry a scarecrow until orgasm? That’s a range Oscar voters should follow.