Quick synopsis: Trapped on an isolated farm, Pearl must tend to her ailing father under the watch of her mother. Lusting for the glamorous life she’s seen in movies, Pearl’s temptations and repressions collide and she starts killing people, one of which she leaves near the entrance of her house, literally sending her to the Pearl-ey gates.
I actually wasn’t a fan of X, it just didn’t vibe with me. So I went into this with slight apprehension, worried that I might end up being bored very early on. The good news is, I didn’t dislike it for a long time of it. The downside, the longer Pearl went on, the less love I had for it. I loved the stylistic choices, and the performances are incredible. I just, I dunno, at some point I just stopped caring. Once I got past the Wizard Of Oz feel, I wasn’t that engrossed by it. It’s not helped that I didn’t like any of the characters. The titular Pearl is a sociopath, her mother is unbearably cruel, and the projectionist seems a little too date-rapey. Also, they’re not quite despicable enough to be villains. Pearl is driven mainly by her ambition and desires to leave her farm (which anybody who has seen X will know she never does), Pearls’ mother recognises that Pearl is capable of great evil, so she is trying to protect the world from her. So you can’t really truly despise them either. In a film full of colours, all the characters are too morally grey to feel too strongly about.
I think I need to watch more Ti West, as it is possible I just don’t like his writing style. Others do, and I can see why. He writes like a 70s horror writer, so you know that no matter what, it won’t be stupid, and it will take its time. His stuff mainly seems to be very slow burns, which normally I like, but I feel it didn’t really lead to much this time. It’s like watching a car slowly roll down a hill, you expect it to crash at the end, but instead, it just slows down gradually and comes to a stop.
Everybody involved is obviously talented, Mia Goth gives an incredible performance, one scene, in particular, is a master class in acting where she just gives an unbroken monologue to her friend. Tandi Wright is also great as the mother of Pearl, I wouldn’t trade her for another girl. That’s a reference to this song btw, I haven’t just decided on a really weird sentence structure.
Matthew Sunderland gives a weirdly good performance considering his character can’t move, but his eye work is tremendous. There is a definite love for the art here, the fact that Ti West, when he needed an illicit film, didn’t just invent one, or find a random one, he actually showed A Free Ride, which is seen as the earliest American porn movie that is still available for viewing today. It’s obvious he knows his shit, it’s just not for me.
If this was a short film, I’d have loved it. If it actually did more with the concept than the “we have an idea”, I’d have liked it. But as a feature? For a film which features genuine pornography, there’s surprisingly little meat. Also, it’s weird this received a US cinema release in September last year, and a Blu-ray/DVD release in November, yet didn’t come out here until March. Wtf is up with that?