Pearl Really Is a Star
As the credits roll and Pearl attempts to keep up the guise of happiness as she smiles into the camera for minutes on end, all I could think was Mia Goth is a star. The prequel to X Pearl was one of the most highly anticipated horror films of 2022, and boy, did it deliver. The film does what great all prequels should do, make the original better. By focusing on the character of Pearl, the old lady from X, the movie allows itself to delve into all of the life choices that lead her to where she ends up and helps the audience understand truly how crazy she is. From the opening frame to the end credits, the film is a master class on how to create a character study.
Throughout the film, the viewers watch Pearl’s slow descent into madness while simultaneously building a backstory that makes them care for her. For every scene where there is a brutal murder or violent outburst, there is a scene that reminds you of the pain that has made her this way. In particular, there are various scenes where Pearl’s mother berates her for doing normal girl things. In the opening scene, Pearl dances while wearing one of her mother’s dresses while fantasizing about leaving her small-town life for the big screen. When her mother comes in, she immediately scolds her and pushes her off to do her chores, and that is just a small glimpse of the repression that Pearl faces from her mother.
Later, Pearl sneaks off to see a silent film of dancing girls, the very same dancing girls she wishes she could become one day. Here, she meets a projectionist who immediately takes a liking to her. Then on her way home, she stops to dance with a scarecrow, eventually turning into something much more sexual when she begins to imagine the projectionist she met earlier as the scarecrow. This continuous pairing of dancing and sex that is seen throughout the movie gives its viewer’s the perfect understanding of what Pearl is truly after, freedom. The kind of freedom isn’t important; It could be freedom from the repression of her mother, freedom from caring for her ill father, freedom from the sexual repression of the time, or freedom from her small town.
Once her true desires can be understood, it is easy to feel for the poor girl. She has big dreams, just like everyone else, but they are constantly torn down by the world around her. This is where the turning point comes between the repression of one’s desires and how they eventually get expressed in one way or another. In this case, it comes out through murderous tendencies. These tendencies are alluded to early on when she kills one of the geese and feeds it to the alligator behind the farm, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually, all of her repressed feelings get the best of her, leading to a killing spree like no other.
All of these moments would never have been impactful without the actress behind them all, Mia Goth. Her performance as a good small-town girl dreaming of a Hollywood ending turned serial killer is up there with slasher favorites like Jason Voorhees and Micheal Myers is spectacular. The minute details of her facial expressions and body language create an immediate understanding of the kind of pressure she is under. The delivery of her lines creates an air of child-like innocence, but once she turns on you, her voice turns frantic and murderous.
Her performance is encapsulated in one of the best monologue deliveries in recent history, as she tells Mitsy, her sister-in-law, everything she would tell her husband if he was here rather than at war. With every emotion, she goes through and every tear that falls, Mia Goth solidifies her place as the current it-girl of horror films. The entire speech strikes both fear and empathy in the hearts of those who watch, which is something that could only be done by actors of her caliber.
Pearl is a masterpiece that can only be described as terrifying yet somehow heartwarming. The way in which her story is told is undoubtedly horrifying, but without Mia Goth’s acting skills, the film could’ve easily fallen flat. Instead, her performance will surely go down as one of the best horror performances of this generation.
Writer: Olivia Madrid
Artist: Sophia Jusino