PEARL*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
1918 – In Texas, the country is dealing with the Spanish Flu pandemic, and World War I is going on. A young Pearl (Mia Goth) dances alone in her room before her abusive mother Ruth (Tandi Wright) comes in and orders her to stop messing around and do her chores. Pearl also has to care for her paraplegic father (Matthew Sunderland). Pearl goes to the barn to tend to the cows and horses. A goose wanders into the barn, and Pearl impales it with a pitchfork. She then goes to the lake, where she finds the alligator Theda and hands it to her as a snack.
Pearl has dreams of getting off the farm and has aspirations for stardom. She is married to Howard (Alistair Sewell), who is serving in the war. Ruth discourages Pearl’s ambitions and wants her to stay where she is.
Pearl rides her bike into town and goes to the movie theater. Afterward, she meets a charming and handsome Projectionist (David Corenswet). She tells him a little about herself, and he gives her a snippet of the film reel, which he says he can splice back together. Pearl finds herself smitten with the man. As she rides her bike back home, the snippet flies out of her pocket, and gets lost in a cornfield. Pearl frantically looks for it but ends up coming across a scarecrow. She climbs up and cuts it down, then starts kissing it and straddling it, pretending it is the Projectionist. She then yells at it and says she is married.
The farm is visited by Pearl’s wealthy sister-in-law Mitzy (Emma Jenkins-Purro) and her mother, who delivers a suckling pig to Ruth, but she crudely leaves it outside because she doesn’t want charity. Mitzy tells Pearl that her church is holding auditions for a traveling troupe, which Ruth sees as her ticket off the farm. Later on, Pearl has dinner with her parents, and Ruth continues to admonish her daughter and treat her like she is ungrateful. Pearl also considers ending her father’s life to end the burden for all of them.
Pearl returns to the theater and meets with the Projectionist again. He shows her an unreleased film, “A Free Ride,” one of the world’s first pornographic films. The Projectionist says that these types of films will revolutionize the industry. Pearl talks about her dreams and ambitions but mentions that she is held back by her parents, and she lets it slip that she wishes they were dead, but she backtracks. The Projectionist encourages Pearl to follow her dreams.
During dinner, Ruth pulls out a pamphlet she found from Pearl, knowing that she wants to audition for the troupe. Once again, Ruth shuts down Pearl’s dreams, lamenting how she was forced to care for her husband because of his condition and also telling Pearl that nobody will have her because she knows that Pearl has sick tendencies such as killing small animals. The two get into a heated argument, with Pearl screaming at Ruth, and they slap each other. Pearl struggles and pushes Ruth toward the fireplace, causing her to catch fire and go up in flames. Pearl throws boiling water onto her to put the fire out and then drags a barely alive Ruth to the basement. Pearl then rushes back to the theater and goes to sleep with the Projectionist.
The next day, Pearl is set to get ready for her audition. The Projectionist drives her home and comes across the mess in the kitchen, as well as Pearl’s father sitting alone. He hears a thumping sound (Ruth in the basement), which Pearl says is her dog. She takes him around back to the barn, where she lets it slip that she doesn’t have a dog. The Projectionist grows more nervous and tries to politely tell Pearl he has to go, but she begins to grow angry and believes he is rejecting her and will not take her away from the farm. As The Projectionist tries to leave, Pearl grabs a pitchfork and impales him twice, allowing his car to roll into the lake where Theda feasts on his corpse. Pearl then knocks Ruth down the stairs and goes to smother her father with a blanket.
Pearl dons a red dress and joins Mitzy at the audition, where they see one girl crying about her rejection. Pearl goes on before Mitzy, and she puts on her own dance routine, set across her envisioned stage production in a war setting. After she finishes, the judges reject her. Pearl envisions the judges as her parents, plus The Projectionist and Howard before she begs for another chance and insists that she has what it takes, but one of the judges tells her that they are looking for someone younger, blonde, and with “X factor.” Pearl begins to wail hysterically and break down crying outside before Mitzy goes to comfort her.
Mitzy escorts Pearl home and sees the rotting pig outside being devoured by maggots. They sit down in the kitchen, and Mitzy tries to calm Pearl down by having her vent and speak as though she is addressing Howard. Pearl then delivers an impassioned monologue about her resentment for Howard for leaving for the war, as she knew he came from somewhere far away and might be able to take her away from the farm. She continues by admitting to her affair with The Projectionist and confesses to killing her parents and The Projectionist, though she says she regrets doing it to her father. After she finishes, Mitzy starts to walk away, and Pearl tries to congratulate her for getting the part. Mitzy denies getting the part, but Pearl says she is lying. Mitzy then says she did so that she can leave. As she starts to walk out, Pearl follows and grabs an axe. Mitzy tries to run and call for help, but Pearl hacks her to death.
Pearl dismembers Mitzy and feeds her remains to Theda. She then goes to the basement, where Ruth had attempted to crawl up the stairs before dying. Pearl envisions Ruth looking well and telling her that she loves her, which is all she wanted from her. Pearl then sits her parents’ corpses in the dining room, along with the rotted pig, and pretends to have dinner with them.
Howard returns home from the war and enters the house, where he discovers the horrifying display. Pearl then comes out and says she is happy to see Howard. She then gives him a forced, pained smile, which she holds through the credits as tears stream down her face.
The film is a prequel to "X", showing how Pearl descended into madness.
Pearl is a farm girl living with her abusive mother Ruth and her paraplegic father. She has dreams of stardom and wishes to escape the farm, but her husband Howard is off fighting in WWI. When Howard's sister Mitzy mentions to Pearl about an audition for a traveling troupe with her church, Pearl sees it as her chance to leave finally. She also begins an affair with a Projectionist from a movie theater in town.
When Ruth admonishes Pearl for wanting to pursue her dreams, they get into a tense argument that ends with Ruth's dress and body catching fire, but Pearl puts it out and throws Ruth into the basement. She also smothers her father to death and impales the Projectionist with a pitchfork when he starts to get away from her after seeing she is unhinged.
Pearl goes to the audition and is rejected. She has a breakdown and is brought home by Mitzy, where she confesses to the murders. Pearl hacks Mitzy to death with an axe to prevent her from telling anyone, and she feeds her to her alligator Theda.
Howard later comes home and finds Pearl's parents' corpses sat down at the dinner table while Pearl greets him with a disturbing smile.