This movie does something I hate, that a lot of films do with teenage characters — making them wise beyond their years. The reason it works so poorly with Pearl (Larsen Thompson), is it doesn’t even fit with what happens to set the wheels in motion. She’s a perfect student, who tours a prestigious school and is all set to get in. Then her mom (Sarah Carter of The Flash) is shot to death by her mom’s boyfriend (Nestor Carbonell), who kills himself. This means she’s going to have to live with her grandmother Eve (Barbara Williams), who we see always getting drunk. Including on the day she shows up at the crime scene. Eve acts the way alcoholics act in movies, not in real life. And so does their family lawyer, who shows up at weird times and makes bizarre announcements. One of those is that mom’s ex-boyfriend Jack Wolf (Anthony LaPaglia), might also be Pearl’s biological father. He’s also a drinker and suicidal. He’s suicidal the way people are in movies. They put the gun in their mouth each night, with a bottle of booze by their side, but just can’t do it. And when Pearl comes knocking on his door, he decides to clean up his life and become a decent father figure to her. My wife pointed out something.
“Does a guy that’s always drunk on his couch and ready to kill himself, have such a nice house?” I also cracked up when she pointed out how he tries to hide the gun from Pearl by opening up a drawer with silverware and slipping it in there. She said to me, “You don’t have room for a gun in there.” [side note: it scares me that she knows that].
The lawyer also explains that the mom left everything to her boyfriend, yet the boyfriend was rich and they weren’t married. Uh…sorry, but a mother wouldn’t do that. It makes absolutely no sense. We’re to believe that a woman is dating a rich man, and decided to go to a lawyer and draw up a will that leaves everything to a lover, so if she…would’ve died in a car accident or from a disease, the kid gets nothing? If you want to set drama up like this, you have to figure out a proper way to do that. In the terrific movie In The Bedroom (Sissy Spacek, Marisa Tomei, Tom Wilkinson), a man killed someone and gets out of prison, because the script was written in a way where a rich guy could possibly pull that off. And characters all grieved the way characters would grieve after having experienced this.
In one of those coincidences that only happens in movies, Jack is a screenwriter who is having trouble finding work (but again, has a great house and nice Mercedes), and the one director he hates, is the father of Pearl’s best friend. So…guess who is going to attend an awkward party at their McMansion? And what’s the over/under on how many minutes they’ll stay before they storm out in anger?
For reasons that don’t make sense, that prestigious college no longer wants Pearl, because they feel she won’t be focused on graduating after dealing with such drama.
She then goes to a regular public school, where again, something that only happens in movies, happens here. As she’s being shown around campus, a Latino girl (Melissa Macedo) mouths off to her wanting a fight. Another observation my wife made, “Shouldn’t Latinos be upset by this stereotype? She’s talking like a Mexican gang member.”
I was more bothered by her acting the way a bully doesn’t act, and Pearl responding in a way a person wouldn’t respond, and then that movie trope of them becoming BFFs after that. Seriously, how are we supposed to like her new friend when she literally wanted to kill her for no reason? Oh, because her rich best friend and her had a falling out, so we’re supposed to now root for the new friendship to blossom. Okay, got it.
This was written and directed by Bobby Roth, who is best known for doing TV. And this feels like it was a Lifetime movie. Roth clearly has no clue how teenagers, or any humans, act in real life.
It was such an uneven mess. It is void of character development and I didn’t feel anybody had chemistry with each other. Pearl also has these facial expressions and tantrums that don’t make sense. Half the time, I was wondering if she wanted to sleep with her dad (if he is her dad; he doesn’t think he is, the lawyer seems convinced he is).
I get that they wanted Pearl’s character to be so mature, she’s handling her mom’s death by just trying to move on with her life, but that didn’t sit well with me. Her facial expressions weren’t those of maturity, but those that…made me think she might become a serial killer. They were all just so odd. Even the opening scene where we see she’s an accomplished pianist, and her mom sits down next to her, and the way they look at each other.
The flashbacks had a Before Sunrise vibe, as we watch the couple courting in Paris. The dialogue with the couple was atrocious. And LaPaglia looked the same age in those flashbacks. That’s my only complaint about LaPaglia, though. He’s always great to watch, and I loved him so much in the underrated comedy So I Married An Axe Murderer, and always wish I saw him in more films. It’s just a shame that this is the movie I was watching him in.
The director is married to Bruce Springsteen’s sister, so he got the Boss to play guitar for the songs, and Bruce’s wife Patti sings them. They’re awful. The song at the funeral sounded like bad Marianne Faithful. The song Motherless Child was weak (although it made me think of the great Clapton song Motherless Children). Side note and completely off topic: I can’t believe the song Springsteen did for The Wrestler wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, when it was not only the best song of that year, it’s one of the best songs written for a film in the 21st century.
I liked that the record store in this movie was called Record City. That’s the name of the best record store in California, right here in Hillcrest. If you haven’t been, you should go.
On another music tangent, at least the movie reminded me of Janis Joplin’s best album Pearl (which came out after she passed). I pulled that out and gave it a listen. It helped me get the bad taste out of my mouth from all the awfulness I witnessed here.
I am going to reluctantly give it one star for having LaPaglia. My wife hated it as much as I did.
1 star out of 5.