★★ out of ★★★★★
Written and Directed by Ti West.
Pearl WILL be one of the more divisive films of the year. It will end up on some “best of” lists, but it could very well end up on some “worst of” lists. Why? Simple really. It’s a very uneven film. It contains some rather shocking bits, but it’s also equally underwhelming.
For those of you that haven’t been hip to Ti West’s latest triptych, Pearl is the second in a three part series involving a young woman, Pearl (Mia Goth, X and Suspiria), who’s deeply sexually frustrated and actively repressed by her tyrannical German mother.
Set in the same Texas farm location as this year’s knockout hit X, Pearl takes us back in time to 1918. Pearl is stuck on the farm. She’s forced to deal with her infirm father (Matthew Sunderland), her demanding mother, and the allure of the picture show and the dancing girls in the nearby community.
From the jump Ti West establishes Pearl’s cruelty towards animals, her disdain for her parents, and the fact that she’s been effectively abandoned by her husband off fighting the war. That’s really one of Pearl’s (the film, not the character) biggest problems. The character of Pearl is so well established in the opening sequences of the film that there’s no development, no tension, and no anticipation. We know she’s a psychopath from the beginning and that never really changes throughout the film. We get the cow and the milk too.
Certainly, Pearl has a handful of edgy and off-putting moments and a very bizarre monolog towards the end of the film, but largely all the “action” happens in the second act and the third act serves as a boring clean-up to the two previous segments. Pearl’s monolog, as well as her peculiar smile during the end credits will also be rather divisive. You either buy Pearl’s loony behavior or you don’t. Unfortunately, I didn’t.
In reality and on screen, Pearl appears as a very rushed film. As Ti West has indicated, the crew of X was already assembled in New Zealand and they figured they’d just go ahead and hastily shoot a prequel. Written by Ti West and Mia Goth, the film’s back-story doesn’t add much to this blood-soaked triptych, but instead degrades the perfectly concocted couple in the first film, X. I never really cared to hear their back-story, but there will be some of you out there that were clamoring for an early 1900s horror show.
Pearl looks great and Ti West employs some interesting cinematic tidbits from the Edwardian Era, but only a few here and there. Frustratingly the audience is left to pick up the pieces and imagine the early 1900s film references West is laying down. It will be VERY interesting to see where the third piece of the trilogy, Maxxxine, goes. If the post credit VHS scroll is any indication then we’re in for a real salacious treat. A treat that just might redeem Pearl’s poor-to-fair outing.
Pearl is Rated R and in the theaters now.