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MaXXXine film review: Not the finale she deserves

A woman with blonde hair dances in a club in the film MaXXXine

Ti West’s MaXXXine shows the evolution of a dynamic filmmaker at the cost of giving its final girl the ending she deserves.

Director: Ti West
Genre: Horror
Run Time: 144′
US Release: July 4, 2024
UK Release: July 5, 2024
Where to watch MaXXXine: in theaters

In X, Maxine Minx became an overnight horror icon in the world of scream queens and final girls. Mia Goth was thrust into the limelight with her portrayal of a young porn star determined to become a star no matter what it costs, refusing to accept a life she does not deserve. Ti West’s X was followed up seven months later by its prequel, Pearl, where Goth cemented her spot as one of the most dynamic actors working today.

While X created the tantalizing world in which this story takes place, Pearl added colorful nuances with a knockout performance from Goth that left audiences waiting with baited breath for MaXXXine, the third installment of this horror trilogy. However, the trilogy’s finale does not give its final girl the ending she so deserves. 

MaXXXine picks up the story of Maxine Minx (Mia Goth, of Infinity Pool) in the 1985 Hollywood scene, six years after the events of X. The Maxine we knew in X is worlds away from the one we meet here. While still fiercely ambitious, Maxine is much more settled into herself. She is 33 and no longer the wide-eyed southern girl with big dreams of being a star one day. Her ambitions feel much more grounded in reality. She doesn’t simply wish to be a star anymore; she is doing everything in her power to earn it. The childish nativity she possessed in X has been dulled; she is now in the belly of the beast and understands the glitz and glamour Hollywood once promised is all smoke in mirrors. She sees the world for what it is. 

In the six years that have passed, Maxine has made a name for herself in the adult film industry, but is trying to make a leap into the big leagues of legitimate movies. She gets the opportunity to audition for a sequel to a fictional horror film, The Puratin, and catches the eye of no-nonsense director Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debicki, of The Crown) after giving a monologue reminiscent of the one Goth had given as the titular character in Pearl.

As she awaits word on the audition, her friends, who are all somewhat involved in the sex worker industry, begin to go missing, and she starts to get threatening messages from an anonymous sender, who claims to know of Maxine’s involvement in the events that took place in X. While Maxine ends up booking the role, the dark secrets of her past begin to jeopardize the future she has worked tirelessly for. 

Two women walk in the street at night with a Neon Hollywood sign behind them in the film MaXXXine
MaXXXine (A24)

MaXXXine is the most ambitious film within West’s trilogy in terms of technical execution. Pearl was the franchise’s biggest risk, as the success of it relied entirely on the performance of Goth, a feat she was easily able to overcome. MaXXXine, however, is the first movie to take place off the Texas farm audiences have come to know with a much bigger cast of characters at play. With a brand new setting, an entirely different cast outside of Goth, and far more nuanced plot lines, MaXXXine feels like it has so many different avenues to explore that it doesn’t know which one to focus on

The real stars of MaXXXine are Ti West and his filmmaking team. West’s love for filmmaking is palpable throughout the viewing experience. With MaXXXine, he concludes a trilogy that has allowed him and his collaborator Mia Goth to grow as artists, and it is clear he wants this send off to be bigger than anything its audience has ever seen before. If Pearl was Goth’s opportunity to shine and show what a talented actor she is in every sense of the word, MaXXXine is West flexing his filmmaking muscles with his very own magnum opus

MaXXXine is a thrilling, albeit at times lopsided, ride. There is pure passion driving it forward, but that passion drives the plotlines into one another and leaves much to be desired in terms of suspense and horror. The editing is choppy, jarring almost, in a way that doesn’t lend itself to the movie’s overall style. While the dialogue is memorable, it mainly consists of monologues you want to be further expanded upon or one-liners that pack a punch to underline whatever gory act is coming after it. The film is certainly entertaining, but throws audiences from storyline to storyline without allowing them to digest what is unfolding before them.  

The film wants to deal with Maxine’s past, present and future all at once, but with this wide range of plot points, none are ultimately given the time and attention they needed to be fully fleshed out. Audiences are coming to see what has happened to Maxine and what will become of her. However, the movie is chalked full of meta side-stories trying to tie in real world pop culture references that take away from building a satisfying conclusion to an extremely well crafted character. 

Maxine’s director, Elizabeth Bender, delivers a line about wanting to make a B movie with A ideas. It stands as a cheeky nod to the way horror films are typically brushed off as “less important” movies that still have the potential to make an impact. MaXXXine has glimpses of meaningful sincerity; the dynamic between Maxine and Elizabeth holds most of them. Their conversations revolve around the hard work that is needed to be a star and the reality of what being a star even is, especially as a woman in Hollywood. 

MaXXXine: Trailer (A24)

Their relationship is the most impactful aspect of the story. After all that Maxine has been through, there is finally someone on the other side who sees how tough she is and is willing to help her achieve her dreams. While this is the heart of the film, it often has to compete with the other storylines that try too hard to make this movie fall into the horror genre. 

It is clear that MaXXXine is a film for people who love films. Ti West uses the third installment in the “X” franchise as a love letter to the type of cinema he grew up on in the ‘80s. However, MaXXXine often seems torn between an homage to the movie making culture of the ‘80s and a close out of a trilogy that has developed a cult following. Mia Goth’s talents feel stubbed in favor of giving material to other actors who all put on thick, fake accents for some inexplicable reason. All in all, MaXXXine gets lost in its own meta “film within a film within a film” lineage and ultimately gives an “A+” final girl a “B-” finale

MaXXXine is out now globally in theaters.

Pearl Film Review: Mia Goth Shines in Prequel – Loud And Clear
Film Review: Ti West’s Pearl is still a fitting prequel that solidly explores the origins of Mia Goth’s deranged, repressed slasher killer.
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