Y'all See Me For Who I Really Am, A Star: Mia Goth
The horror world is no stranger to the vast impact that A24 films have had in the genre. Films like Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Midsommar or Robert Eggers’ The Witch have dominated the discussion of horror and now Ti West’s franchise X is at the forefront of the horror community. X was released in March of 2022 and its prequel Pearl was released soon after in September, marking a fairly quick release and turnaround. X and Pearl both play homage to the slasher genre as the films both take heavy inspiration from heavy slasher flicks like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its camp-y gore and theatrics.
X takes us through the story of three young couples traveling to Texas to shoot a cheap film at an elderly couple’s rural farm to which they find themselves being targeted by a murderous villain. The prequel Pearl then examines the backstory of the titular villain Pearl and how her murderous rage came to be. As many prequels end up missing the mark and being relatively lackluster, Pearl is anything but that. Arguably the film far surpasses its predecessor in terms of plot and story-building and leads the audience through a spine-chilling, psychological masterpiece.
The performance of Mia Goth in both X and Pearl is truly what makes both films stand out. Starring in X as both Maxine Minx and Pearl, she gives a harrowing show of both the antagonist and the final girl, sparking the prequel and upcoming sequel to X, MaXXXine. However, Pearl is where she really shines, providing an award winning performance depicting the origin story of villainess Pearl.
Pearl depicts a young farm girl navigating her relationship with her mother and taking care of her terminally ill father all while attempting to pursue her dream of being a star. She fights forces with her mother who believes she will never be on stage due to the need for her to care for her family at home and overall, her lack of talent. Pearl then rebels in various ways throughout the film, each time worse than the last, creating a frightening show of the psychological torment she faces.
While Pearl does touch upon the influences of various slasher films, it can be considered more of a melodrama as Pearl’s struggle with her psyche is the main focus of the film. Mia Goth’s acting exacerbates the dramatization of Pearl’s backstory further as she pulls you in with the characterization of a young girl just wanting to make it in the world. However, she creates a constant push and pull of emotions throughout the film as you want to sympathize with Pearl and the struggles she faces with her family and interacting with her peers, yet know that she is a dark and dangerous character, succumbing to a murderous rage. The very basis of the film is Pearl’s want and need to be loved, which proves Goth’s depiction even more chilling as you find yourself hooked into the bizarre backstory and into Pearl’s successes and failures.
In both films, Goth’s characters Maxine and Pearl alike just want to rise to stardom and become famous despite their grueling backgrounds. West really breaks down these characters and the obsession with stardom within the respective decades and now as Goth’s characters all comment on the extremes to which someone will go to become a star (including murder and arson).
While the characters themselves may not be stars (yet, anyways, pending the release of MaXXXine), Mia Goth certainly is and she deserves to be recognized for the roles she has played throughout the franchise. Monologuing the inner thoughts of a psychopathic farmhand obsessed with fame, her almost 10 minute performance of the deteriorating psyche of Pearl shows the absolute talent of Mia Goth and how she can captivate an audience. She then completes Pearl with a completely improvised static smile into the camera for nearly 3 minutes as the credits roll, again showing just how well she can portray this exhibition of madness.
Like the audience of farm animals within the two films see Pearl for what she really is, a star, that is what I see for Mia Goth. The whole world is going to know her name and I can only hope that her roles in this franchise will soon skyrocket her to a household horror name.