TIFF ’22: Pearl

Ti West and Mia Goth shot X, and its prequel film, Pearl back to back. In both Mia plays Pearl. In X she’s a psychotic octogenarian, but in Pearl, we get to see her as she was, when she too dreamed of getting off the farm and chasing dreams of fame to become a star.

While there are visual and stylistic connections to the first film, Pearl is more in line with the era of the cinema of the 1930s (but set in 1918), with lush colours, and it lacks a little bit of the fun that permeated the first film, not to mention West’s knack for constructing an engaging slow burn.

This time around, Roth, who had a hand in the script is centre stage through all of it, and while it doesn’t tie both films together completely (which raises a couple of questions of its own about how out there Pearl is as a character) it definitely fills out her back story in a fairly interesting way.

Arguably the weakest film in West’s filmography, Pearl marks the first time he’s done a sequel/prequel to any of his films, and while the connective tissue of actor and character ties the two films together, this is probably the weaker of the pair.

I do like seeing similar shots, framing, callbacks, and more throughout the picture, and though the production looks great, it just isn’t as enjoyable as X.

Goth’s performance slides from subtle to histrionic depending on the needs of the moment, and honestly, she shines in the last moments of the film as she smiles forcefully into the camera and holds it for, intentionally, way too long.

With the way this one ends, and with what the first film established there are a lot of unanswered queries and threads that may need some future exploration. Whether we see that or not, that’s yet to be seen, but a third film in the series, MaXXXine will follow the story after the events of X.

Pearl screens this evening at the Cinesphere.

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