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'MaXXXine' Review

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July 8, 2024
Tyler Banark
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“I will not accept a life I do not deserve” is a phrase frequently uttered throughout the X trilogy, coined by the lead character in all three films: Maxine Minx and Pearl. They both know what they want and will go to great lengths to achieve it, even if it means getting their hands dirty. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mia Goth sees a little piece of herself in these characters, as she’s cemented herself as a generational scream queen through her immense commitment to the roles.

1985 Los Angeles has become a scene of chaos! People are pushing for censorship in movies and music, satanism has caught national attention, and a serial killer called the Night Stalker is on a killing spree. Amidst all of this is Maxine Minx, the lone survivor of the now-dubbed Texas Porn Star Massacre (as depicted in X). It’s been six years since that dreadful night and Maxine’s on her way to achieving her dreams of fame. Although she’s technically still in the porn industry, she finally gets her big break as the star in a sequel to a hit 1950s-set horror flick, The Puritan. But right as production is about to begin, her past comes back to haunt her as a shady private detective (Kevin Bacon) looks to get the truth out of her about what happened in 1979.

In some ways, MaXXXine is a mix of both Pearl and X, most notably in its fitting representation of its setting. A gritty, neon-drenched 1980s Los Angeles serves as a perfect backdrop for the story of Maxine's continued journey. The attention to period detail, from the fashion to the music, is impressive and immersive. The cinematography, with its use of vibrant colors and shadowy contrasts, enhances the film's eerie and unsettling mood.

Another element of similarity is how committed Mia Goth is to her performance! She shines in her role, bringing depth and complexity to Maxine as she navigates the treacherous world of Los Angeles while grappling with her demons. Kevin Bacon also gives a noteworthy turn, taking on a role I never imagined to see from him. He makes it work while donning a southern accent thicker than Goth’s.

However, despite all the other talented names in the cast, that pair is the only one making an impression. Elizabeth Debicki plays the no-nonsense director of the movie Maxine got cast in, but she comes off as one-dimensional in the role. Bobby Cannavale and Michelle Monaghan play detectives investigating the Night Stalker, with the former posing as a sort of comic relief. Both of them attempt the good cop, bad cop routine, yet it doesn’t resonate at all. Meanwhile, Giancarlo Esposito plays Maxine’s manager, but he has very little legroom to work with. There’s also singer Moses Sumney playing Maxine’s friend Leon who works at a video store. Unfortunately, his performance stands out for the wrong reasons, with his monotony being similar to his work in the critically panned HBO series The Idol.

MaXXXine does falter in its narrative execution in comparison to Pearl and X. The plot, while intriguing, often feels disjointed, with certain subplots left underdeveloped. Additionally, the film's blend of horror and drama sometimes clash, resulting in tonal inconsistencies that can be jarring. The movie often cuts to news footage pertaining to the Night Stalker on his killing spree and makes a recurring motif out of the Psycho set on the Universal Studios lot. Unfortunately, they go nowhere and feel mostly like plot devices. There’s also a lack of genuine scares. The only notable moment of terror is when Maxine is getting her face molded for a prosthetic head.

If Ti West's X trilogy will be remembered for anything, it's how slippery it got after the first film. All three movies don't have consistency in tone, which is bothersome given how X had the tone it should've stuck with. Even though there isn't much fanfare here, MaXXXine does make for a bloody better time than Pearl, redeeming the sins and seeing Maxine’s dreams of fame come closer to fruition.

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