This soapy family drama makes Anthony LaPaglia the only genuine thing here.
“Pearl” is a lame version of “Manchester by the Sea,” which you recall was my favorite movie fo the 2010s. It deals with a depressed man, a kid who just lost a parent, and how their relationship takes off. It doesn’t. It just follows one formula after another. The man is new to parenting, the girl is mopey and objective, and we’re wondering when something new will come up in the script.
You have issues, not all of which are solved as if nobody really cared about them, and characters who are just obligatory as if they must relate to the average movie-goer. I wanted something original and emotional, not the same things we’ve seen done better before.
We meet Pearl (Larsen Thompson), a popular and spoiled straight-A student, who’s ambitious about making it big in life. She feels all is right with the world, until her stepfather Anthony (Nestor Carbonell) murders her mother Helen (Sarah Carter) and himself. She’s get kicked out of her top school (Ming-Na Wen plays her headmistress), she loathes her alcoholic grandmother (Barbara Williams), and her friend’s parents refuse to take her in.
We also meet Jack Wolf (Anthony LaPaglia), a suicidal, unemployed, and disgruntled former filmmaker and ex-lover of Helen, who receives word about this, and is informed by Helen’s lawyer (J. August Richards) that she appointed him Pearl’s guardian. She’s easily convinced Jack is her biological father, but the old man is in denial.
She must live with Jack who gets a job teaching filmmaking, while she attends public school. Throughout her sanctuary, she spends most of the movie moping about, pondering why her mother chose Jack of all people to be her guardian. And her only friend is the hispanic schoolgirl Sylvia (Melissa Macedo).
And about Jack and Helen’s connection, they both meet after a fender bender in Paris, and spend time together. They eventually break up after she is driven home late from a night club by another man. Those flashbacks are shot in black and white, as if it were trying to be like the segments in “Memento.”
LaPaglia provides some solid work as Jack in the ways his character deals with the drama in his life-past and present. But his character study is obligatory and underdeveloped, as if writer/director Bobby Ross felt him just being a new dad and a former lover was enough. He’s basically the only thing I’ve liked about “Pearl.”
And Thompson gives a television-like performance, who never seems to come out on the screen, or dare to try anything original. In fact, I’ve gotten quite tired of how her character has to be the generic spoiled and mopey kid. Losing a loved one is always difficult, and I just lost my grandfather last month, but I still wasn’t impressed with how the actress and character handles the turmoil.
“Pearl” has to end like some kind of cheesy Nicholas Sparks movie, when Pearl and Jack meet the spirit of Helen at her tombstone. It seem so flimsy, and never seems to spark our interests. At least, we do tear a little when Jack rips a letter that determines whether or not he’s Pearl’s real father. It think the movie makes its point.
Available on Amazon Prime