Earlier this year, director Ti West took his audience on a crazy and dazzling journey with the film X. Now seven months later, he takes his audience to the world of Pearl, a prequel to X set on the farm from X, but in the early 1900s, in the olden days of filmmaking.
In the film, Mia Goth plays Pearl, a girl with many feelings of loneliness and desire, who is living with her harsh mother Ruth, played by Tandi Wright, and her disabled father, played by Matthew Sunderland. Pearl lives a depressing life of solitude and rules, with little love, and she becomes desperate to find fame. Her search for it, though, is one that is rather harrowing—and deadly. She meets a film projectionist, played by David Corenswet, who shows her classy olden films. She meets others in the film industry, including Misty and Howard, played by Emma Jenkins-Purro and Alistair Sewell. Pearl’s desire to find fame causes her to become vindictive—enough to want to kill.
There are many similarities between Pearl and X, but Pearl contains less violence than X. The violence in Pearl is still graphic, but tempered by Goth’s performance. Like X, Pearl involves the concept of sex and filmmaking, which seems to be a big theme with West’s directing. In X, it was all about porn actors and directors trying to make a movie on a farm. After all the fun of their sexual escapades and filming of adult films, they begin to be terrorized by the landlords of the farm. Pearl is, again, about a girl living on that same farm, but decades earlier.
The theme of sex and movies being frowned upon in the olden days of filmmaking was interesting. Instead of Pearl being shy about it, though, she wants to be the one involved in sexual activities in films, despite it being an era where having sex in movies was not common. For Pearl, it’s not only about being a star, she also wants her desires to be met. And if Pearl can’t get sex, she is ready for others to pay the price. Though not quite as violent as X, Pearl is easily the most eccentric, and the most crazy and erotic, directing I have seen from West.
Despite its eccentricity and disturbing theme Pearl does give an interesting look back at the classic days of filmmaking. I very much enjoyed that aspect of the film. There are some repeated aspects and events from X, but this is a prequel so some of that is to be expected. The horror in Pearl being calmer than in X was a plus. Overall, I would call Pearl a crazy ride of terror and killings, with some laughs thrown in. I am giving the flick three and a half stars.