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PEARL Has Mia Goth Stunningly Capture The Horror Of Failure

After a 6 year hiatus from feature films, Ti West burst back onto the big screen with his highly acclaimed X, a throwback to the grimy horror films of the 1970’s. As an added treat to audiences who finished the film thinking, “I want more”, the surprise teaser for a follow-up, Pearl, blessed audiences. Very quickly, fans began clamoring for what was coming next out of the twisted mind of West and star Mia Goth. Pearl seemed to capitalize on the flashiness of the Technicolor 1950’s, yet another seemingly bygone era of cinema. Serving as a prequel that broke down the origins of Goth’s decrepit, murderous Pearl, hopes were high for just how twisted of a fairy tale the two could provide. And now, nearly 6 months to the day later, Pearl has arrived in cinemas; Be sure to protect all your precious animals and family members, because she is coming for the top spot regardless of who or what stands in her way. With an introduction reminiscent of John Ford’s The Searchers, it would appear the whole world is at the fingertips of our titular character. Yet very quickly, we are honed into the sheer fact that even such a massive, beautiful piece of farmland can feel as restrictive as being held against your will in purgatory.

What is perhaps most refreshing about Pearl is how little this resembles a traditional horror film. Instead, West and Goth aim to capitalize less on the cruelty of a sadistic villain, and more on the cruelty of life itself. It emphasizes the universal horror and fear that comes from worrying about failure. As Goth’s Pearl hopes to find her big break and escape the dreary responsibilities of being a caretaker and simple farm girl, she will perform for nearly any audience. As her favorite animals watch on in silent confusion while her mother does so in silent contempt, you can’t help but empathize with Pearl in some regard. As her actions become more unhinged, obviously there remains less and less justification. Yet there will certainly be some part of all of us who just hopes she will get to go on stage and wow the world. Everybody is looking for that golden ticket out, that chance to start anew, whatever it takes to find an escape. In more plain terms, everybody in the world is looking at the best way to get whatever it is they want. Yet Pearl’s mother, the stern voice of reason, demands her daughter makes the most of what she has. It’s in this conundrum that Pearl’s internal conflict comes bursting out in bloody glee, as West knows just what it is that us horror fans came to see; when given that carnage alongside such a scarily fascinating character piece is when Pearl truly shines as a cinematic vision both fascinating and unique.

At the core of this vision is none other than Goth. In her first stand-alone lead role, it is truly a performance for the history books. Captivating yet terrifying, or heartbreaking with a looming sense of wrongness seeping through her every expression, Goth’s Pearl is one of the most fascinating characters to come out of a horror film in quite some time. At one point in the film, Pearl meets a projectionist at the local cinema who tells her, “There’s a fascination in seeing people as they truly are”. Truer words have never been spoken, and it feels as if Goth took this to heart when bringing her titular character to life. With more than one breathtaking display of her commanding screen presence, Goth breathes a multi-dimensional life into Pearl, making for a horror film that feels that much more dynamic and exciting. Also serving as a co-writer and executive producer on the film, Goth clearly had plenty of time and commitment to dive into this role, and it certainly shows. What began as a fun experiment that would help serve as background for Goth’s performance in X was luckily able to become its own separate entity. When speaking on shooting both X and Pearl back-to-back, Goth stated, “We had these amazing sets already at our disposal. It felt to us like everything was in place for Pearl’s backstory.”

Pearl is full of extended sequences that will surely keep its viewers riveted. Make no mistake, West has provided us with a film that is oftentimes deeply disturbing. However, there is still more than enough tongue-in-cheek fun literally pouring off the screen to remind us of the fun that can be had with a film like this. Rooted in the tone and look of a Technicolor-inspired melodrama, the swelling orchestra of composers Tyler Bates and Tim Williams set the scene via sound. At any moment, it wouldn't feel far fetched if colorful, chirping birds began surrounding Pearl. Yet on the flipside, the duo is also able to tap into a rising darkness in the titular character. It is used sparingly just as Pearl’s outbursts are held back for maximum fear, but when it strikes, it is felt viscerally. In an incredible turning point of the film, an extreme argument takes place during booming thunder and lightning. It feels as if it was ripped directly out of a soap opera or climax in a children’s story, yet the passionate, tear-riddled performance of Goth turns melodrama and deep insecurities into a bloodlust for success at any cost.

As Pearl wraps itself up and sets the stage for X, the opportunities for a double feature lay themselves out on a golden platter. Yet two films apparently isn't enough for Goth and West, as A24 has just announced a third entry in this trilogy. Maxxxine, starring Goth as her character Maxine from X, will be set in 1980’s Los Angeles. One can only imagine what the duo has in store for us, but it is sure to dazzle.Above all else, it is deeply refreshing to see a filmmaker be given such free reign on a creative endeavor as weird and fun as these films. And the fact that these films are in the hands of one of the most exciting actresses in recent memory is just the icing on the cake.

A24 will be releasing Pearl in theaters on September 16th.

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