The fabulous Mia Goth can’t justify Ti West’s hasty sequel to ‘X’
One of the thrilling features of Ti West’s otherwise mediocre—if not stylish—sex-filled slasher X (2022) was a secret dual performance by Mia Goth as both the film’s protagonist and slasher. Adding to the intrigue, that film ended with a teaser trailer as an end credits stinger, revealing a secretly filmed prequel promising Goth reprising her role as the murderous Pearl.
Set amid the 1918 influenza pandemic in the waning days of World War I at the same Texas farm where the events of X took place some 60 year later, Pearl details the titular villain’s origin story. Pearl’s husband is overseas at war and she hasn’t heard from him. Her father is an invalid. Her mother is an unrelenting taskmaster. All Pearl wants is to escape her boring farm life and be a dancer on film. Don’t we all?
Pearl convinces herself she just needs a chance to show everyone her dance moves and her smile to punch her ticket to stardom in the pictures. Just her luck there’s a big dance audition coming into town for a touring dance troupe, and she happens to befriend a local film projectionist who likely has designs on sleeping with her but is a free source of dance film admittance. Of course, things don’t go Pearl’s way, and all her pent-up rage comes pouring out.
The film patiently builds up to revealing Pearl’s ugly side but is a bit too in love with its own premise and lacks the tension and thematic creativity of X. So, when things finally go full slasher, it lands with a resounding thud.
West’s work two-thirds through this trilogy is nothing if not self-aware, but that isn’t enough to excuse a film that very much feels like an exercise in world building for the sake of world building. The setting is nothing more than window dressing, the bombastic golden age soundtrack and sweeping script opening titles nothing more than pastiche. The obvious nods to the Wizard of Oz are kind of nice though. West also served as his own editor for this one, which is glaringly noticeable when a monologue by Pearl in the last reel runs way too long.
PEARL ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: Ti West
Written by: Ti West
Starring: Mia Goth
Running time: 102 mins
Goth gives it her all. Never mind she is strangely affecting an Alabama accent for a Texan born to German immigrants. It’s no surprise she’s the bright spot of this whole affair, but sadly it’s just not enough to make this film memorable. IMDB should list her role as “Oasis in a Ti West Desert.”
Like its predecessor, Pearl is a film with some fun ideas and 100 percent game cast. And like X it’s mostly style over substance, notwithstanding Goth’s unhinged performance. I can’t help but think that this was a lot of fanfare for a movie that very much feels like West filmed it a side project and released it as a fast-follow 6 months later.
West made his intention clear that this will extend into a trilogy, with the follow-up to Pearl already greenlit. Coming to theaters soon: Maxxxine. The strange thing? I’m willing to sit through another one of these just so I can get more of what Goth is putting down.