“I do love a good audience” – Pearl
A few years ago, director Ari Aster released Hereditary. His debut all-in feature is a horror of such immense depth, that after the credits roll it stays with you for a long time. Part of that reason is down to the outstanding performance of Toni Collete as the grief stricken Annie Graham. Of course she was bestowed with honors from the lower key Film choice establishments (Chicago Film Critics Association), the larger industry awards; Golden Globes, Oscars, Baftas, all ignored her performance. This is due in part to the nature and genre of Hereditary, and this is also similar to how Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Northman) is horrendously overlooked – the industry sometimes does not like to award the genre. I feel Mia Goth is somewhat suffering the same fate, and that is an unfortunate reality.
The 29 year old British-born Goth, first arrived on our radar in Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2013). However, her roles in the remake of Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino) and the Sci-fi High Life (Claire Denis), found the actress fall exceptionally into the horror genre. This year, Goth will feature in two movies: the first is Infinity Pool by Brandon Cronenberg (son of David). Alongside Alexander Skarsgård, Cleopatra Coleman, and Amanda Brugel, Infinity Pool is a twisted, unnerving movie, where Goth herself is praised for her spine-chilling performance. And that is something she projects – a graceful, unnerving quality. The second movie is MaXXXine, the conclusion to Ti West’s low-budget trilogy, which has introduced the actress front and center to horror audiences. It is this run of movies that has shown not only how an actress can absorb a genre and make it her own, but these films have given her the space to explore her acting skills, which should be highlighted.
To begin, X currently has a rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, not bad for a movie made with a million dollar budget. In X Ti West produces a homage of sorts to the B Movie classics of the seventies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So much so it is set in 1979, in Texas and follows a group as they head to the countryside to make a pornographic film. We are introduced to the fame-hungry Maxine (Goth), her boyfriend Wayne (Martin Henderson), her fellow actors Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), and Jackson (Scott Mescudi). Alongside these are the film crew of RJ (Owen Campbell) and Lorraine (Jenna Ortega – Wednesday). It’s a respectable, and engaging cast who, for a low budget flick, actually give worthy performances.
Check out the I Know That Face Episode on the career of Mia Goth below or wherever you listen to podcasts.
As the troupe arrive at their farmhouse location, we meet the gruff farmer Howard (Stephen Ure), and his unhinged, elderly wife Pearl (Mia Goth). With Goth in dual roles, you can already see how the trilogy comes together – both parts she plays with equal menace, vulnerability and at times savagery. To be clear it is graphic, and X has its fair share of gratuitous sex and violence. Nevertheless there is also a dark humor running throughout. Overall, it is aesthetically nostalgic with Goth as the twisted ‘final girl’ shines, and it is a somewhat original take on the tried slasher movie genre.
Where X set the scene, introducing the world to the characters, Pearl executed the ideas brutally and stylishly. Again with the low budget of a single million, and this time with Mia Goth having a hand in the writing, this is the movie which should have earned an Academy Award nod for Goth as her acting prowess soars. Similar to X, we are thrown back in time again, this time to follow the beginnings of Pearl (Goth again) in the 1920’s dust bowl of Texas. And this time West pays homage to the golden age, and beginnings of cinema. It’s currently 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, and that is understating how impressive Pearl really is: let’s not forget Martin Scorsese calling it “mesmerizing”.
Pearl examines most of those deadly sins: envy, lust, greed, pride and of course wrath. Or, to put it another way, Goth does through the character of Pearl. Similar to the Maxine of X, Pearl is fame-hungry, dreaming of silver screen adulation, but also a damaged person who goes to the extent of mutilating animals. A failed audition, dancing with and getting frisky with a scarecrow (Wizard Of Oz nod), and an introduction to a pornographic film – another thread that the trilogy shares – all combine to ignite the rage of Pearl. Ultimately ending in carnage, again Goth’s unnerving, smiling face is an image that stays with the viewer. This A24 project should really have gotten further acclaim than just the independent film awards such as Sitges Film Festival, and the Hawaii Film Critics Society.
While MaXXXine is only in production at present, the anticipation is at fever pitch. What we do know is Mia Goth will continue in her role as Maxine, who locates to Los Angeles in the eighties in search of fame. Again Goth has a hand in the writing, and this, she claims, will be the strongest in the trilogy. We can expect a release date towards the end of 2023. It’s probably a safe bet to anticipate a twisted narrative and some courageous film making – which is only as it should be.