The Great Performances of 2022 | Features

Prior to shooting “X,” Goth had already co-authored with West the script for a potential prequel set 61 years before the events of “X,” using the same New Zealand locations. Released in September and filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic the previous spring, “Pearl” is the picture that cements Goth’s status as one of the finest talents of her generation. The extent to which Goth makes her character’s plight as a quarantined caregiver relatable causes her actions to be all the more disquieting.

Pearl’s searing regret and awareness of her demons that she struggles to mask rise to the surface in an extraordinary climactic monologue she delivers to her absent husband, Howard, in the presence of her bewildered sister-in-law Mitsy. Her view of life as “harsh, bleak, and draining” has been formed by one lived strictly in service of another, while her repressive upbringing proves to be strikingly similar to that of Maxine, whose evangelist father rages on the TV screens in “X.” It all leads to an unforgettable final shot of Pearl, her face viewed in close-up, as she welcomes her husband back from the war, hoping he won’t mind the corpses propped up in the dining room. Pearl’s grotesquely strained smile was only meant to be glimpsed in a freeze frame over the end credits, yet West and Goth spontaneously decided on the shooting day to have Pearl hold that pose for as long as possible. In this moment, she channels the personal hell every woman has endured when forced to put on a happy face.

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