Director Ti West
Screenplay Ti West, Mia Goth
Starring Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Tandi Wright, Matthew Sunderland, Emma Jenkins-Purro

Whether anyone is interested in a prequel featuring the character of Pearl from X, it has arrived. The story, going back from 1979 to 61 years earlier on the same Texas farm, presents a youngish Pearl (Goth, sans horrible makeup) who is living with her strict mother Ruth (Wright) and invalid father (Sunderland) while waiting for her husband Howard to come home from World War I in Europe. In the first act we get evidence that Pearl dreams of something bigger for her life. We also get evidence that she’s a bit of a nut with a habit of feeding things to the alligator living in a lake on their property.

She loves movies, and wants to be a star. She meets a Bohemian projectionist (Corenswet) back from the war who thinks she’d be great if she went with him back to Europe when the war is over. Maybe, he says, Pearl can star in the movies that he shows her in private during the off hours at the theater.

Her sister-in-law Mitsy tells Pearl about an audition being held at the local church. Pearl imagines this being her golden ticket away from her life on the farm. We know, however, there will be no way out for Pearl.

Goth does a good job with limited real estate on which to travel as Pearl. Her life is explained in a very moving and tragic speech in the third act. And whatever you do, don’t leave the theater as the credits roll. It’s one of the strangest and most uncomfortable sequences this viewer has witnessed. There is no doubt Goth puts everything she has into this role.

Even with some excellent cinematography and some fine moments, Pearl is an odd idea for the middle part of a trilogy. The events happen over a very short period of time, and there is no real effort to explain how it is Pearl and Howard get along for the half-century leading to the events of X. It’s hard to enjoy a truly disturbig film like this so much as one can just appreciate the effort.

Personally, much of it’s running time had me wondering what exactly Scorsese saw in the film that kept him up at night. Most likely, it’s the lack of superhero tights.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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