NEW TO VOD! When I was a child, there was an awesome game show on Saturday afternoons that, for whatever reason, I became obsessed with and that program was American Gladiators. For those of you too young to remember. American Gladiators was a competition show where amateur athletes from around the country would compete in a season-long athletic contest for the title of “Grand Champion.” Part of the competition included some combat with the shows titular gladiators. They were all bodybuilders with cool names like Zap, Bronco, and Elektra. The women, just like the men, were in a word…jacked.
Why the hell am I talking about American Gladiators right now? Because Elsa Amiel’s Pearl took me back to that show. Taking place over the course of a bodybuilding contest, we see men and women that are…jacked. When I say jacked, I mean…JACKED. The most defined muscles in all of Europe are traipsing around in one hotel, The Eden. Our central focus is on a female bodybuilder Léa Pearl and all the steps she has taken and is still taking to win the title of “Miss Heaven” at this international bodybuilding competition.
“Taking place over the course of a bodybuilding contest, we see men and women that are…jacked. When I say jacked, I mean…JACKED.”
Pearl takes place in France, but there seems something so overtly American about the sport of bodybuilding. It relies almost entirely on superficiality. However, the plot and overall tone of the film are incredibly French. Léa is obsessed with being tagged the biggest and badest. She has one of the best coaches in the community, Al, at her disposal. He’s invested in Léa’s success because he’s her coach, but he’s also her lover. Additionally, we see later that he coaches because he’s always wanted to win the competition himself, but is handicapped.
The conflict comes when Léa is preparing for the contest in her hotel room and suddenly her ex-husband Ben arrives with their son, Joseph. Léa hasn’t seen Joseph in four years and is not ready to in the midst of what is to be her big moment. Ben doesn’t care and insists that Léa take care of Joseph, which causes a rift in Léa’s relationship with Al, and her desire to continue on this career path.
"…we discover the difficulties that accompany bodybuilding."