maxxine mia goth review

MaXXXine is so bad, it practically sinks the entire X trilogy

2 stars out of 5

With the first two films of his Mia Goth-fronted trilogy about fame, Ti West found a muse. X and Pearl were not horror masterpieces, but they were interesting — their stories and images deeply indebted to Goth’s strange and beguiling screen presence. With their latest collaboration MaXXXine, Goth returns as her character from X. Set in 1985, Maxine has become one of the most sought after porn stars, but she still dreams bigger. She wants to break into Hollywood and it’s not long before she finally gets her wish. Meanwhile, a serial killer stalks the streets and only seems to get closer and closer to our ambitious lead.

A pastiche of erotic thrillers, MaXXXine not only struggles to find its voice, it’s a film so fundamentally flawed that it exposes the failures of the two previous films. Its engagement with the era it depicts end up feeling empty and shallow. The aesthetic barely resembles anything real and doesn’t contribute any strong understanding of our character or her world. Rather than deepening our understanding of Maxine’s quest for fame, it only retreads it, pulling and pushing Mia Goth through the motions as it forces her to play out emotional notes and scenes that worked in the previous films.

The story has a kitchen sink quality, throwing around many different storylines, none of which have satisfying or thrilling trajectories or conclusions. The violence is bombastic but unimaginative, leaving only a vague bloody hue to the overall impression of the movie. The movie lacks boldness despite its larger than life ambitions.

maxxxine mia goth elizabeth debicki review
Mia Goth and Elizabeth Debicki

The film’s greatest strengths come from a large (and unfortunately overstretched) supporting cast that includes Giancarlo Esposito, Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Debicki. They all seem to know just what buttons to push, leaning into the ham to meet Mia Goth’s unwavering intensity. Each of their characters is injected with strange mannerisms and sociopathic tendencies. They cast Maxine’s quest within a larger context of an industry manned by monsters. Yet the film gives little room to the audience to truly revel in any of their performances. Their talents were wasted.

Even Mia Goth doesn’t escape unscathed. For a general audience, X and Pearl were introductions to an actress who had already made her mark on auteur projects like Claire Denis’s High Life and Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness. Her pop factor was that she really has no peers, even in broader popular cinema. Her creaking voice, her bleached eyebrows and glassy eyes add a sinister note to her beauty. You can’t look away from her, even if you sometimes want to. 

Giancarlo Esposito in MaXXXine

MaXXXine‘s biggest crime is that it reduces even Goth to a pale parody. Her here performance isn’t necessarily worse than those in the other two films, but it lacks any freshness. Perhaps matching the film’s tired lack of imagination, she seems to embody a little too realistically her character’s weariness. Beat down from the adult industry, Maxine is a character who wants to will herself into a new career stage, but also seems to be tired. She’s been running from her past for a long time and the strain is weighing on her. Goth brings that energy to the screen, but it’s perhaps too conceptual for a film that has very little insight on the subjects it’s tackling. 

Despite its overstuffed feel, MaXXXine also lacks in momentum. It’s not thrilling or exciting, it doesn’t push you to the edge of your seat, hoping to see what comes next. It’s a collection of images that feel expensive and homemade; references slapped together without a lot of consideration and without a clear aim. ■

MaXXXine (directed by Ti West)

MaXXXine is now playing in Montreal theatres.

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