Artificial Intelligence

Give Mia Goth the Oscar for ‘Pearl’

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“I’M A STTT-AAAA-UUUU-RRRR,” Pearl (Mia Goth) bellows as she crumbles to her knees in a blood red dress. Tears blubber out of her incessantly, and her crippling desperation comes forth with each thundering scream. Every ragged breath provides us a wildly uncomfortable, weirdly pitiful performance in Pearl — one that’ll have you thinking, “She’s just like me, for real.”

It’s not easy to capture the burning rage of having your dreams taken away from you. It’s especially not easy when you’re confined by the limitations of acceptable feminine rage. Yet Mia Goth takes those boundaries and completely obliterates them in her performance in Ti West’s Pearl, in which screeching, kicking, and weeping run free in a beautifully twisted, technicolor dream. 

The film is a prequel to West’s slasher hit X, released earlier this year, which follows a porn shoot gone wrong — thanks to a much (much) older Pearl and her husband hunting the crew down one by one. In Pearl, Goth takes us on a trip down memory lane and delivers X’s big bad granny wolf’s backstory in a one-woman show that never gets old. She’s so wonderfully weird and cathartically chaotic as Pearl, you end up rooting for her — and almost forgiving her for becoming a haunting octogenarian slasher later on in X

In an admittedly strange way, Pearl has become a heroine for young women, a way to vicariously express our repressed anger through visceral reactions we’re socialized not to feel or explore in our own lives. I’m not saying we should all pick up our pitchforks and pull a Pearl. But with Pearl’s intense wrath, Goth gives us an incredibly layered performance that speaks to an often neglected yet incredibly needed portrait of feminine rage. It’s one grounded in the current climate, which constantly gives women every reason to feel that anger, but simultaneously shames them for feeling it to begin with. Everything about Goth’s performance in Pearl — from her infectious charm to her bombastic performance to the more pressing themes simmering beneath it — deserves ample recognition beyond Twitter applause. And by that I mean, in the Academy’s voting room.

Mia Goth is a force of nature.


Credit: Christopher Moss / A24

Goth’s screen presence in Pearl is a wall you simply can’t argue against. One need look no further than her eight-minute monologue in the final act to understand why. The scene, a confession, sees a defeated Pearl admitting she’s not OK in any regard while going into the extraneous details of why she is the way she is. Her delusions and denial gradually fade away as the monologue goes on, as audiences begin to realize that she’s finally (for better or worse) accepting that she’s an angry person with a murderous predilection. And she doesn’t know what to do about it. It’s a raw, slow-burning confession akin to a therapy session, baring Pearl’s heart on her sleeve. Goth maintains your attention for every second of it.

Then, over the film’s end credits, she proceeds to do the unimaginable. Like an unnerving twist on Call Me By Your Names final shot, she maintains a painfully wide grin while barely blinking as the credits roll. Silent and strained, she sets the stage for a future Pearl, who’s officially accepted that her life is going nowhere; her husband is the orbit she must keep at all costs. In this final moment of ferocious close-up, she evokes the feeling of a mirror slowly cracking, piecing away each chip of Pearl’s facade throughout the film — only to haphazardly reassemble it in the end credits for one final desperate attempt to be loved by the man in front of her. 

But Goth’s performance in Pearl isn’t all doom and gloom. She also gives us liberating moments of self-emancipation, like her dance audition, where she imagines herself as part of a chorus line, in the kind of larger-than-life dream world we’ve all imagined for ourselves when we’re alone in our rooms at 2 a.m. Whether you’ve pictured yourself dancing on stage with your favorite idols or becoming a pop princess, the relatability is in Pearl’s desperate dream to be bigger than her family’s ranch. She is, at her core, a young woman wanting more. That exudes itself through her monologue, or whenever she yells at her love interest for leaving her. (We’ve all been there.)

Beyond the gravitas is the incredible feat of filming Pearl only three weeks after wrapping up X, where Goth (mindblowingly) played both porn star Maxine and a very (very) old Pearl. Through sequels, many actors accompany their characters as they age, from Indiana Jones to James Bond. But Goth played Pearl in reverse, knowing where she was going to end up and questioning where it all began instead. With her trailblazing across different decades so seamlessly, you’ll forget she’s playing three different characters in three different eras of life.

Feminine rage flourishes in film and on the internet, but not in the Academy. 


Credit: Christopher Moss / A24

Horror movies make room for women to go wild (in the best way) on screen. From Toni Collette’s monologue in Hereditary (cue “I AM YOUR MOTHER” here) to Florence Pugh’s delirious descent in Midsommar to Lupita Nyong’o’s damned dual role in Us, the genre is generously packed with wondrously WTF yet good-for-her! scenes. But while fans might celebrate feminine rage on screen, the Academy refuses to follow suit. None of the above performances have earned Oscar nominations, much less awards.

Pearl‘s “I’m a star” and Midsommar‘s group crying scene have been meme-ified by the internet, but that doesn’t detract from the wow factor of these performances. Nor does it suggest they’re worthy of mockery. When you see Pearl reaction videos camping underneath a tweet about men not texting back, yes, it’s all very funny, because it’s such an extreme reaction. But it’s also telling of a larger internalized frustration women have. It’s validating to see a woman on screen be absolutely furious toward the family, partners, or friends who mistreat her, and Goth’s performance in Pearl is a well-needed addition to a scarce list of characters like that in film. Women now, more than ever, have every reason to be angry at the world. It’s time to not only allow that frustration to breathe on screen, but also to celebrate it.  

Give us more women with mascara-stained cheeks. Give us more women yelling at their husbands for not treating them like a person. Give us more angry, messy, lonely, raged-up characters because — believe it or not — women get angry! And it’s time for the Academy’s reward roster to expand beyond the comfortable boundaries of drama, where women in pain might be contained, and to recognize the talent and beauty of wild feminine rage on screen. 

In 2022 alone, Goth gave us three characters to root for, scream over, and intimately understand. Her performances in Pearl and X speak to a necessity for a different type of female character on screen, one that viewers are clearly resonating with and want more of. In fact, 2022 should be the year of feminine rage. A simple look at our world gives more than enough reason as to why. It’s time to celebrate the mess and wrath of women on screen. This year’s Oscar should go to the one that brought it in a big cauldron pot of bubbling rage — Miss Mia Goth.

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