Ti West’s “Pearl”, which came out not long after his previous film “X” (2022) in last year, presents the colorfully disturbing origin story of the villain character in “X”. In contrast to the dryly creepy atmosphere of “X”, “Pearl” cheerfully bounces along with its demented heroine as she delves further into her madness, and we are alternatively amused and chilled by a number of striking moments of insanity and violence along the story.
The story is set in the same Texan farm shown in “X”, but its period is different for showing the early years of Pearl (Mia Goth). It is 1918, and Pearl is the daughter of a German immigrant couple who has been going through a very hard time due to the ongoing war in Europe. Mainly due to the hostility toward German immigrants, there is not any employee to work in the farm, so Pearl’s stern mother Ruth (Tandi Wright) must take care of everything in the farm, and she also has to nurse her paralyzed husband who cannot move or speak at all due to his illness. Naturally, Pearl is usually expected to help her mother, but, as shown from the opening scene, she is hoping to get out of the farm for anything better than her current life, and she certainly feels suffocated and frustrated everyday under her domineering mother.
And then there come two small but significant changes into Pearl’s isolated daily life. On one day, she goes to a nearby town for her father’s medicine, and she happens to meet a charming lad who works as the projectionist at a local theater where she spends some free time. As a matter of fact, Pearl is already married to some other young man who went to the war, and she really loves her husband as still waiting for him, but she cannot help but feel more of her growing need for being loved and desired. While coming back to her home, she comes to have a little kinky experience with a scarecrow, and we come to sense more of the repressed sexual desire inside her.
Some time later, Ruth and Pearl are visited by Pearl’s mother-in-law and her daughter Mitsy (Emma Jenkins-Purro), a plucky blonde young girl who has incidentally been Pearl’s only friend. During their little private moment, Mitsy tells Pearl that there will soon be a little dancer audition for some traveling troupe, and she kindly encourages Pearl to go to the audition along with her. Although there is not much chance for both of them, Pearl is determined to go the audition and then get herself chosen in the end, and her life begins to look a little cheerful and colorful than before as she is buoyed by the possibility of getting her wish at last.
However, Pearl soon finds herself clashing with her mother, who is not so amused when her daughter tells her about that audition during one evening. Well aware of how twisted and dangerous her daughter can really be, Ruth absolutely forbids her daughter to go to the audition, and that inevitably leads to a striking moment of confrontation between them.
And that is the point where Pearl comes to pass the point of no return. As she tries to keep going as usual for the upcoming audition, she only finds herself driven more by her dark side, and she certainly regrets over how things get messier for her despite her desperate efforts. Nevertheless, she has no problem at all with covering up one terrible deed after another, and a big alligator living in a nearby pond, who is probably related to the similar one in “X”, comes handy for her.
Even at this narrative point, the movie maintains its deliberately colorful mood to accentuate the melodramatic horror of its heroine’s madness. While its bright and sharp color scheme is often reminiscent of the Technicolor wonder of “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), the intentionally overblown score by Tyler Bates and Tim Williams intensely depicts the frequent emotional upheavals of our murderous heroine, and we gladly go along with that as often horrified by the consequences of her relentless madness.
As the center of the film, Mia Goth, who also wrote the screenplay along with West in addition to serving as one of its executive producers, gives another committed performance to mentioned along with her terrific dual acting in “X”. Fearlessly throwing herself into a series of disturbing moments in the film, Goth is constantly captivating to say the least, and she is especially superb when the camera simply focuses on her face as she deftly delivers an emotional monologue during several minutes without any interruption. We come to feel more pity for her character, but then we are also more terrified as sensing more of how insane she really is.
Around Goth, a few main cast members hold each own small place well as dutifully supporting her. While Tandi Wright is effective as the main acting opponent for Goth, David Corenswet is well-cast as Pearl’s possible love interest, and Emma Jenkins-Purro brings some warmth to the story as functioning as the most normal person in the story.
In conclusion, “Pearl” is a solid genre piece which is as entertaining as its predecessor, and you may come to have some expectation on whatever will come next from Goth and West, who are already planning on making another film to be added to their X series at present. Along with its predecessor, the movie delights me for showing that their genre is still a rich territory to explore, and I assure you that its last very last shot will linger on your mind for days after it is over.