Last October I watched X, and I promised myself that this year I would watch the prequel, Pearl (which I was able to get through my library via Kanopy, hurrah!) Pearl is the unhinged, baby-faced origin story of the horny, murderous old gal in X. And much like X, Pearl made me very, very uncomfortable

Pearl is special. She wants something more than her life on her parent’s farm, she wants something better than her mother’s dreary life and father’s invalid existence, she wants to get out of her small town and be a star. She’s married Howard, a neighbor from a nice family, with the hopes that he’ll be her ticket out of this place, but Pearl’s plans are thwarted in that regard because he actually wants to live on the farm. None of that matters anyway, because he’s been shipped overseas and Pearl is all alone in her miserable longing and loneliness. And, as it turns out, her escalating craziness. As the disappointments pile up for Pearl, she begins giving into her violent impulses in increasingly extravagant and bloody ways.

In some ways, Pearl seems awfully naive and appears to be untethered from reality. But you also get the impression that she might have a canny sense about people and can see through their bullshit–even her own, as evidenced by a heartbreaking monologue near the end of the film where she admits she is not unaware that people are frightened of her, that she’s a bit scared herself of how much she enjoyed hurting people and things. How she just wants to be loved, and how she may have ruined the future of her marriage with a good man. A good man who at the end of the film, comes home to be greeted by Pearl’s carnage.

So, why did Pearl make me so uncomfortable? As someone who could be dying in the street, bleeding out all over the place–I wouldn’t make a peep about it or cry for help, for fear of the embarrassment of it all. Pearl’s a character who runs around French-kissing scarecrows, hollering her feelings at some guy she barely even knows, she isn’t fearful or the least bit self-conscious about getting up on stage and doing a silly little dance in front of strangers and also doesn’t have the least bit of a problem about having a total screaming meltdown in front of them, when they don’t pick her for the part. Afterward, she wails and sobs like a freaking banshee on the church steps (ostensibly everyone is still inside and can hear her carrying on) and that’s just, like…Pearl. No concept that it’s weird and awkward and making everyone uncomfortable. Every particle of my being shudders at all of this.

Pearl reminds me a bit of the drama kids in high school who would be loud and obnoxious and belt out songs during lunchtime, and they’d be totally oblivious to the spectacle they were creating (or maybe they didn’t care, I guess?) and I would be thinking “OMG WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE ARE LOOKING AT US.”

I know, that’s very much a Sarah-problem. My super repressed hangups and such. That’s fair. And hey, you might have known those kids. You might have BEEN those kids! I’m sorry for sounding intolerant. But yeah…Sarah doesn’t like being made uncomfortable, and Pearl was massive unease and discomfort on steroids, delivered at the pointy end of a pitchfork.

One reviewer summed Pearl up as “heartbreaking in the most abject way possible” and wow. Yes. Exactly.

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