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MaXXXine puts the psycho in psychosexual—but how gay is it?

MaXXXine puts the psycho in psychosexual—but how gay is it?

Mia Goth in MaXXXine
A24

How gay is Mia Goth's MaXXXine, the final movie in Ti West's X franchise? Out film critic Dana Han-Klein breaks it down!

Welcome to How Gay Is It?Out's review series where, using our state-of-the-art Eggplant Rating System, we determine just how queer some of pop culture's buzziest films and TV shows are! (Editor's note: this review contains mild spoilers for A24's MaXXXine and the trilogy of X films.)

Mia Goth is back as undeniable star Maxine Minx in MaXXXine, the culmination of writer-director Ti West's titillating trilogy. Set considerably after the events of X (the first film in the trilogy), MaXXXine places its titular character smack-dab in the middle of grungy mid-80s La-La Land. Unsurprisingly, she's still obsessed with the dream of transcending her eminence as an adult performer and conquering the mainstream.

The movie, which is set against the terrorizing reign of a real-life serial killer called the Night Stalker, features Maxine on the verge of a big break after horror director Elizabeth Bender (played by Elizabeth Debicki) gives her an opportunity. Even though Ms. Minx's dreams are jeopardized by the emergence of a mysterious entity from her past, nothing is going to stand in the starlet's way as she fends off her ghosts while striving for the spotlight.

It's unfortunate that the conclusion to West's trilogy turns out to be the weakest installment of the series. While one could potentially see it without having seen Pearl (the second of the series), it feels necessary to have seen X. Yes, we know that's how sequels work — but what we loved about the dynamics between Pearl and X was that it always felt like we were being fed just the right amount of information to connect them. The first two films work harmoniously as they explore the cascading of generational trauma, while MaXXXine feels more like an interloper.

Mia Goth in MaXXXineA24

In the first two films, West explored sexuality against the horror backdrop in a meaningful way. However, West somehow loses his trust in the audience during this third movie. While X and Pearl wove clues and callbacks in with a level of grace, that element disappears in MaXXXine. He instead relies on overly expositional soliloquies — particularly through the mouthpiece of in-universe film director Debicki, who effectively serves as a stand-in for West as director.

While we don't feel it's necessary for him to have done an overt recap of the events of X for audiences who are first-timers to the franchise, we do think it would've been helpful to give some sort of additional context for her blast from the past. Without the context of her previous deeds, the film loses an incredible amount of edge. Even armed with that knowledge, it feels like an afterthought.

Though peppered with some of the signature violence and viscera of the previous films, the use of them here feels more like a plateau than the crescendo that a fan would expect from this final movie.

Goth still shines through the muck and mire of the overcomplicating factors. Sadly, though, her performances in the previous films stand miles above her turn in MaXXXine due to the material. Meanwhile, actors Moses Sumney, Michelle Monaghan, Bobby Cannavale, Halsey, Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito, and Kevin Bacon play some of the most one-dimensional supporting characters that we've seen in the entire trilogy.

Giancarlo Esposito in MaXXXineA24

It feels like a shame, but maybe fitting, that everything is tamped down at the end of what was a shot of adrenaline into the horror genre. As the world of the film keeps trying to tell Maxine Minx, not everything or everyone is destined for a fairytale ending.

We now turn to the question that we're here to investigate: How gay is it?! Well, it feels like a been there and done that. X and Pearl featured female protagonists exploring their sexual desires and liberation, whereas MaXXXine is ready to hang up the hat. Moreover, while the adult film industry is still a part of the core plot, MaXXXine is more about transitioning away from that storyline.

We admired that the first two films spent time building up the characters — sometimes through their sexual exploration — at the beginning of their respective journeys. This final film, however, skips straight to its horror elements, which means that we never feel the thrill of suspense we experienced in X and Pearl.

Even though sex work is a core part of Maxine's world, it suddenly fades into a monotonous background in this last installment. As for romantic entanglements, there's maybe a hint of sapphic obsession from the female director toward her starlet… but it doesn't really get explored.

Mia Goth and Elizabeth Debicki in MaXXXineA24

In spite of having the ingredients that made the first two movies so fresh and exciting, MaXXXine is devoid of spark. The meta-narrative of her best days being behind her is not lost on us, but it also feels like West stumbled into that instead of deliberately guiding audiences in that direction.

For this sendoff of an otherwise fantastic horror franchise, we'll give MaXXXine 2.5 out of 5 stars as a whole (though we're admittedly being on the generous side). As for how gay it is — and we're generously taking into account some of her past explorations! — it's a meager 2 out of 5 eggplants.

Two eggplants in the How Gay Is It? review series

MaXXXine is now in theaters

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Dana Han-Klein

Dana is a film fanatic, tenacious traveler, and interviewer of interesting individuals. She is also the host of the 'We're Watching What?!' podcast.

Dana is a film fanatic, tenacious traveler, and interviewer of interesting individuals. She is also the host of the 'We're Watching What?!' podcast.