I found more good material than usual for this annual feature that I do, and I’m posting this early to see if I get more clicks than usual. Here you may find some of the memorable movie dialogue that I heard over the past 12 months. As always, I don’t have access to shooting scripts, and I’m reproducing the words as I’ve heard in the films. The stage directions are mine. Also, WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE AHEAD.

I’m not listing Vengeance among the year’s best movies, but I did find some patches of strong writing, like in this speech when protagonist Ben goes to meet local music producer Quentin and finds that the Stetson-and-bolo-tie-wearing man is more worldly than he expects as he coaches a teenage girl who wants to be a singer. All musicians should receive a pep talk as effective as this one.

QUENTIN: What is music?
SINGER: Like, singing and stuff.
QUENTIN: That’s right. Let’s take a step back. I wanna share an idea with you. There’s no argument more profound than how the universe came into existence. (Ben rolls his eyes.) Are we here because of God or because of science? It is by its very nature the most fundamental question. But there’s one thing that everyone agrees on, and that is whether it was God declarin’ “Let there be light” or an infinite particle of energy burstin’ forward into the Big Bang, everyone, I mean everyone agrees the universe started with a sound. Why do I call myself a record producer?
SINGER: I don’t know.
QUENTIN: Yeah, we don’t even make records anymore. What we’re recording here isn’t your record. It’s your sound on the record that started on the very first moment in time. (Ben is now more interested.) So when you sing this song, I want you to think about how what you’re making is a record of your time here on this Earth. It’s the sound that you scratch with your life on the record of the universe. Okay?

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Andrew Bujalski’s There There was made under Covid restrictions, with actors never in the same room with each other as they played these two-person scenes. It’s done seamlessly enough that you’d never know that just from watching the film. In this scene, an unnamed woman sits down at a restaurant table with her also unnamed AA sponsor and discusses her previous sponsor. The current sponsor just becomes more and more alarmed the more she hears, and you can see why.

WOMAN 1: You know how it ended with her?
WOMAN 2: No, I don’t. I don’t need to know those details.
WOMAN 1: Yeah, I mean, why would you?
WOMAN 2: I know that people adored her, and I know that losing her in your life must have been so, so hard for you.
WOMAN 1: Yeah, yeah, it was. But it was also — I mean, she was an old hippie for sure, you know. She did all that commune life, and every way a human being could be dragged through the gutter, she knew it, she had seen it and lived it. But as weird as stuff got, I think she just really approached it all with a big, big heart.
WOMAN 2: I always have a hard time with hippies.
WOMAN 1: She was sober for a long time, y’know. She was sober through some of her most difficult times. But like you, she was just super-dedicated. But her husband, man, he just relapsed. He was always relapsing, and he just caused a lot of problems. I don’t know, it wasn’t my business, but she was just super-reliable, and we talked every day. And then there would be these hints of things, like sometimes, well, just a couple of times, but I heard this guy, like, literally screaming in the background like a raving maniac, and Allison, she would just be cool as a cucumber. And she would just say, “Let me call you back in five minutes.”
WOMAN 2: Well, she may…
WOMAN 1: Maybe…
WOMAN 2: Maybe she shouldn’t have been a sponsor.
WOMAN 1: Well, she was just very devoted to him. She would do anything for him. In fact, she had come into some very good money, like 10 years before, because she’d sold some real estate that they’d had forever, but then by the end it was gone. I mean, she basically gave it away to anybody that asked.
WOMAN 2: That’s a heart too big. Like you.
WOMAN 1: No, no, not like me. So she would tell me, well, I would ask her ‘cause I like to know what’s going on with people, I like — is there a napkin around here?
(She gets up from the table and then returns with one.)
WOMAN 1 (wiping off the table): So there was this homeless woman sleeping in her car outside of Allison’s house.
WOMAN 2: Mmm-hmmm.
WOMAN 1: And y’know, Allison, um, couldn’t resist being nice and she, she brought food to the woman, lentil soup.
WOMAN 2: I can’t stand the smell of it.
WOMAN 1: Well, I like that stuff. I like macrobiotic. Um, but Allison had been homeless too, more than once, and so she said to the woman, “Look, since you’re parked outside here, you can, you can use the shower in our house if you need to. Mi casa es su casa.” I actually think that’s beautiful. But then the next part is that after a few weeks Allison, y’know, found something weird or noticed something. I don’t know, maybe it was obvious. Um, so she confronts the woman and she says, “I know you’re having sex with my husband, and it’s okay. I understand. What I’d like to do, with your permission, is record it. Record the sex and beam it out into the universe.”
WOMAN 2 (shocked): She told you this?
WOMAN 1: Her first husband had been an engineer, and so she had some of his old equipment, uh, radios, transmitters, and I don’t even know what else. So yes, she recorded the sex and she beamed it into outer space. See, I think the thing was that she wanted to make contact with the extraterrestrial, extraterrestrial life forms. I don’t even know the terminology. Um, it was like the elders of their race would communicate with the elders of our race of dead people, and they would pass messages to her husband, to her parents. We never spoke about it, but I think she lost a child years before, which would make anybody crazy for the rest of their life. I don’t know if she was crazy…
WOMAN 2: Stop, wait, stop! She was sick! She was sick and suffering. I mean, very sick and suffering. It’s so important that you know that.
WOMAN 1: I don’t pretend to understand all of what she was talking about, but she could be very convincing. So she recorded this and sent this out, and she wasn’t certain, but she thought she was getting something back. See, it’s like her mind was trying to catch up to her spirit, which is where she was very knowledgeable. She felt like she was getting pure light, and it frustrated her that she wasn’t advanced enough to read the messages. Yeah, I know. It’s some weird stuff, but I loved her.
WOMAN 2: This is breaking my heart as you tell me this.
WOMAN 1: Why?
WOMAN 2: Because this woman shouldn’t have been a sponsor. This shouldn’t have happened. And it’s a testament to your strength that you…
WOMAN 1: Well, she wanted the best for me. She wanted me to receive that light, too.
WOMAN 2: That’s a red flag! I mean, red fucking flag! It’s bright red!
WOMAN 1: See, part of why I like you is that you’re in touch with your anger.

Kogonada’s filmmaking is so exquisite. After Yang is a science-fiction film set in the future in which Jake and his wife adopt a Chinese girl and buy a robot named Yang who’s indistinguishable from a Chinese man so that their daughter can connect with her heritage. In this scene, Jake and Yang bond over the former’s job as a tea vendor. As a devoted tea drinker, I can relate to this.

YANG: What do you like about tea?
JAKE: Do you mean the taste of tea?
YANG: Maybe. Is the taste why you like tea?
JAKE: It has something to do with it.
YANG: Is that why you’ve given your life to tea?
JAKE: Given my life to tea? Well, that sounds pretty serious.
YANG: Is it not serious?
JAKE: I guess I’ve acquired a taste for tea, but it’s not why I became interested. I guess what I was drawn to at the beginning was the idea of tea.
YANG: The idea of tea?
JAKE: Yeah, I saw this old documentary when I was in college. It was from the 20th century, and it was about this man searching for the best tea in China.
YANG: China is where tea started.
JAKE: Yes, I’m sure you have lots of interesting facts about tea and China.
YANG: I do. Would you like to hear some of them?
JAKE: Maybe another time.
YANG: I’m sorry, you were saying about the man searching for tea?
JAKE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think it was his searching that compelled me, the pursuit of this elusive thing, the process that was connected to the soil, the plants, the weather, into a way of life.
YANG: So that’s what you like about tea? The search, not so much the taste.
JAKE: No, no, the taste too. (laughing) There’s this part of the film, it’s a great part, where the man is explaining to his German friend why it’s so difficult for him to describe the taste of tea. He says there’s no words for it. There’s no language to adequately express the nature of tea. And his German friend is just standing right beside him with a cup of tea. He says (imitating his German accent) “Yes, but I imagine things like you are walking through a forest and there are leaves on the ground and it just had rained and the rain has stopped and it’s damp and you walk, and somehow that is all in this tea.” I mean, I loved that so much. “Somehow that is all in this tea.” I watched it over and over again.
YANG: I would like to watch this movie.
JAKE: Well, maybe we can do it together.
YANG: Yes, that would be nice.
(Jake pours tea for them.)
YANG: So do you believe it? That a cup of tea can contain a world? How you can taste a place, a time?
JAKE: Let’s put it to the test, shall we?
(He serves Yang a cup and takes one for himself.)
JAKE: See, you want to smell it first. It’s not just flavor, it’s the aroma. There’s history, too. You know, traditionally, tea shops, they were family businesses passed down from one generation to, you know this, generation to generation. Maybe it’s time I started teaching you the trade. Let’s see if we can taste the world together. Drink it all at once.
(They both drain their cups and set them down.)
YANG: What did you think?
JAKE: I’m not sure if I can taste the world.
YANG: Do you taste anything?
JAKE (shaking his head): I think I haven’t the language for it.

Here’s an exercise in using repetition for comic effect. In Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin, Pádraic is in the pub when Colm becomes so desperate to be left alone that he threatens to cut off a finger each time his ex-best friend bothers him. After he leaves, a stunned Pádraic confabs with bartender Jonjo and village priest Gerry to discuss this development. The other two men act like an experienced comedy team to further depress Pádraic’s self-esteem. There’s no way Pádraic is duller than Gerry, given the way he repeats everything.

JONJO: Well, I never heard the like.
GERRY: I never heard the like. He must really not like you, Pádraic.
JONJO: Fingers!
PÁDRAIC: Jaysus, he’s serious, lads.
JONJO: He is serious! You can see it in his eyes he’s serious.
GERRY: Just because he thinks you’re dull. That’s goin’ overboard.
PÁDRAIC (to Gerry): Who told you about the dull?
(Gerry points to Jonjo.)
JONJO: Well, I overheard it! Like, what was I supposed to do? I don’t think you’re dull. And jeez, if I was to cut something off meself for every dull person that came in here, I’d have only me head left.
PÁDRAIC: Do you think I’m dull, Gerry?
GERRY: No! (pause) That said, I did think the two of ye always made a funny pairing, like.
PÁDRAIC: No, we didn’t.
JONJO: Yeah, ye did.
GERRY: Ye did. Obviously ye did. ‘Cause now he’d rather maim himself than talk to ya.
JONJO: Colm was always more of a thinker.
PÁDRAIC: Huh? Why’s every —? I think!
JONJO: Ah, ya don’t, Pádraic.
GERRY: Ya don’t, Pádraic.
JONJO: Your sister does.
GERRY: Your sister does, aye. Siobhán does.
JONJO: You’re more of a…
GERRY: You’re more of a — what is he?
JONJO: You’re more of one of life’s good guys.
GERRY: You’re more one of life’s good guys, aye. Apart from when you’re drunk.
JONJO: Apart from when you’re drunk, aye.
PÁDRAIC: I used to think that’d be a nice thing to be, one of life’s good guys. And now it sounds like the worst thing I ever heard.
JONJO: Ah, don’t take it like that, Pádraic.
GERRY: Don’t take it like that, Pádraic. We’re on your side.

Movie comedies seem to be in decline, and that’s too bad for a ton of reasons. There were lots of scenes in the underappreciated Bros (written by Billy Eichner and Nicholas Stoller) that could have made this list, but I’m picking this one in which Bobby and Aaron go to visit a rich donor with a background in TV who might fund the museum that Bobby means to open. In a year when a lot of real-life rich weirdos have given free rein to their wackiest ideas, Larry Grape’s concept for the museum seems tame by comparison.

BOBBY: Mr. Grape, I’m thinking the final wing should be about Lincoln.
LARRY (stroking his Pomeranian): Lincoln?
BOBBY: Very few people know this, but our most popular president was also our first gay president.
LARRY: Sorry, this is a Lincoln museum? (providing a funny voice for his Pomeranian and gesturing with its paws) “Is this a Lincoln museum?”
BOBBY: It’s actually an LGBTQ history museum, the first of its kind on a national level. We actually just…
LARRY (suddenly furious): That fucking bush! (pointing to a hedge in front of his window) God, my neighbors planted that bush and it blocks my view! Can you believe that? (to his Rottweiler) Let’s go take care of this.
(He leaves the room. Bobby and Aaron look at each other. Larry appears outside, trying to uproot the bush with his hands. His neighbor comes out, and the two men scream at each other.)
BOBBY: This is a fucking disaster. He won’t even listen to me. He’s too busy getting his Rottweiler ready for Pride.
AARON: Okay, from my experience at my job, weird rich people just want to be listened to. Ask him what he’s interested in.
BOBBY: But I don’t care what he’s interested in. I’m interested in pitching him my idea.
AARON: Well, then, pretend that you’re interested. Just do a listening face.
BOBBY: Do a listening face?
AARON: Yeah! (furrowing his brow and nodding at Bobby) Hmm. Yeah.
BOBBY: I can’t.
AARON: Come on, just go.
BOBBY: Okay.
(Bobby makes the same face at Aaron.)
BOBBY: Really?
BOBBY: I look like I’m listening?
AARON: Totally.
(The shouting outside increases.)
LARRY (suddenly quiet): You going to Pride?
NEIGHBOR: Of course.
LARRY: I’ll see you there.
NEIGHBOR: Love you.
BOBBY: All right, listening. I’ll try it, I’ll try it.
LARRY (coming back in): Sorry. I have to get going, boys.
BOBBY: Oh, Mr. Grape, let me ask you something. Um, what would you like to see in the museum?
LARRY (immediately): A haunted house of gay trauma!
BOBBY: A haunted house of gay trauma?
LARRY: There’s a cart on a track, and…
BOBBY: I’m sorry, this is a ride?
LARRY (impatient): Yes, this is a fucking ride! Do you think a ride is too much?
(Bobby and Aaron look at each other again. Aaron shakes his head.)
BOBBY (to Larry): No! No, no, no, no. A ride is perfect. Keep going.
LARRY: All right, we start in an intimate little bar with some young, hot animatronic men, the men turn to dance with each other, when suddenly, boom! (Bobby and Aaron start) A cop car smashes through the wall, police stream out of the cars, there’s sirens, batons, voices screaming, and suddenly the car takes off like a roller coaster, there’s blood everywhere and a monster with Reagan’s face on it is chasing you down the hall saying, “Shining city on a hill, shining city on a hill.” And then we shoot out into the light and it ends on something happy, like Lil Nas X working out with pink dumbbells.
BOBBY (recovering): Wow, a gay trauma coaster. It’s provocative. I just don’t think we can afford that sort of thing.
LARRY: Right, okay. It was so lovely meeting you.
AARON (intervening): Actually, Mr. Grape, I’m not a creative guy, I’m a money guy.
BOBBY (to Aaron): No, no, no, no!
AARON (to Bobby): It’s fine. (to Larry) I can tell you that to accomplish what you want, we need more than just a little donation. We need five million dollars. Then you won’t just get the gay trauma coaster, you’ll get Lincoln, you get all of it. You rewrite history for the LGBTQ community. You’re a storyteller, Lawrence, and this is the ultimate story.
LARRY (to Bobby): You already pushed the museum opening back twice. Is it really happening?
BOBBY: Yes, it’s definitely happening, I promise. My entire life has led up to this.
LARRY: Well, five million dollars is nothing to rewrite history. I’m in.
BOBBY: Really?
LARRY (standing up): Yes, yes!
BOBBY (standing up with Aaron): Thank you!
LARRY: Yes, congratulations on my money. Happy Pride!
BOBBY: Happy Pride!
LARRY: Now I have to go to a Pride party and you’re both too old to be in the pool. Please leave.

It seems to me that good writing is even more essential in superhero movies than it is in other types of films. We need sound ideas to put the concept of beings with superpowers across. The Batman had a good script by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig, and when I reviewed the movie, I took particular note of this climactic scene when Batman and the Riddler are finally in the same room together. Amelia Wedemeyer was right: The Riddler was definitely at the Capitol on January 6th.

RIDDLER: I told you I’d see you in hell.
BATMAN: What do you want from me?
RIDDLER: Want? If only you knew how long I’ve been waiting for this day, for this moment. I’ve been invisible my whole life. I guess I won’t be anymore, will I? They’ll remember me now. They’ll remember both of us. (teasing out the name) Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne. You know, I was there that day, the day the great Thomas Wayne announced he was running for mayor, made all those promises. Well, a week later he was dead, and everybody just forgot about us. All they could talk about was poor Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne, the orphan. Orphan! Living in some tower over the park isn’t being an orphan. Looking down on everyone with all that money. Don’t you tell me! Do you know what being an orphan is? It’s thirty kids to a room. Twelve years old and already a drophead, numbing the pain. You wake up screaming with rats chewing your fingers, and every winter, one of the babies die because it’s so cold. But oh no, let’s talk about the billionaire with the lying, dead daddy because at least the money makes it go down easy, doesn’t it, Bruce Wayne? He’s the only one we didn’t get, but we got the rest of ‘em, didn’t we? All those slick, sleazy, phony pricks. God, look at you. Your mask is amazing. I wish you could’ve seen me in mine. Ain’t it funny? All everyone wants to do is unmask you, but they’re missing the point. You and I both know I’m looking at the real you right now. My mask allowed me to be myself completely. No shame, no limits.
BATMAN: Why did you write me?
RIDDLER: What do you mean?
BATMAN: All those cards.
RIDDLER: I told you, we’ve been doing this together. You’re a part of this.
BATMAN: We didn’t do anything together.
RIDDLER: We did. What did we just do? I asked you to bring him into the light, and you did. We’re such a good team.
BATMAN: We’re not a team.
RIDDLER: I never could have gotten him out of there. I’m not physical. My strength is up here. (pointing to his head) I mean, I had all the pieces, I had the answers, but I didn’t know how to make them listen. (standing up) You gave me that.
BATMAN: I gave you nothing.
RIDDLER: You showed me what was possible. You showed me all it takes is fear and a little focused violence. You inspired me.
BATMAN: You’re out of your goddamn mind.
BATMAN: This is all in your head. You’re sick, twisted.
RIDDLER: How can you say that?
BATMAN: You think you’ll be remembered? You’re a pathetic psychopath begging for attention.
BATMAN: You’re gonna die alone in Arkham.
RIDDLER (shouting): No, no, no, no!
BATMAN: A nobody!
RIDDLER: No! Ah, this is not how this was supposed to go! I had it all planned out! We were gonna be safe here! We could watch the whole thing together!
BATMAN: Watch what?
RIDDLER: Everything! (calmer) It was all there. You mean you didn’t figure it out? Oh, you’re really not as smart as I thought you were. I guess I gave you too much credit.
BATMAN: What have you done?
RIDDLER: What’s black and blue and dead all over? You. If you think you can stop what’s coming… (he starts singing “Ave Maria”)
BATMAN (punching the glass): What have you done? What have you done?

This scene from Todd Field’s Tár is everything. Lydia Tár’s response to a student who’s too quick to dismiss Bach and other dead white guys is both appropriate and also needlessly cruel. It foreshadows Lydia’s future downfall, and it’s one of the finest pieces of writing about classical music I’ve ever heard. The occasion for these remarks is Max conducting by Anna Thorvaldsdóttir. I would point out that Jerry Goldsmith not only stole from Edgard Varèse, he also recorded most of his music on the label named after the composer, Varèse Sarabande.

LYDIA (coming down off the stage and walking in front of the class): Now, you can intellectually contemplate or masturbate about the felicity of the so-called atonal, but the important question here is: What are you conducting? What is the effect? What is it actually doing to me? Good music can be as ornate as a cathedral or bare as a potting shed so long as it allows you to answer both those questions. Max, come on. What do you think?
MAX (hesitantly): When Anna Thorvaldsdóttir was giving a master class, she said she was often influenced by the form and structure of landscapes in nature she grew up within. But I’m not sure that she was interested per se in, uh, describing those actual sounds.
LYDIA: Very Punkt-Kontrapunkt. (to class) Yes, the intent of her composition is vague, to say the least, so if her intent is vague, how do you as a conductor have a point of view about anything? (sitting on the steps leading to the stage) Now, to be fair, there are times when you will simply have no choice and you’ll be made to stand in front of an orchestra and pretend there are these invisible structures, but my prayer for you is that you’ll be spared the embarrassment of standing on the podium with a 4’33” trying to sell a car without an engine. Because now, my friends, now is the time to conduct music that actually requires something of you. Music that everybody knows, but will hear differently when you interpret it for them. (getting up and walking to him) For instance, Max, why not a Kyrie? You know, something like Bach’s Mass in B minor?
MAX: I’m not really into Bach.
LYDIA: You’re not into Bach? (he shakes his head, she sits down next to him) Oh, Max. Have you read the Schweitzer book?
MAX: No.
LYDIA: Well, you should. It’s an important text. Now, Antonia Brico thought so, so much so that she shipped herself to equatorial Africa and canoed up the Congo River to track Schweitzer down and ask him to teach her what he knew about Bach. I mean, somewhere I’ve got a picture of her in a pith helmet. I mean, have you, have you ever played or conducted Bach?
MAX: Honestly, as a BIPOC pangender person, I would say Bach’s misogynistic life makes it kind of impossible for me to take his music seriously.
LYDIA: Come on, what do you mean by that?
MAX: Well, didn’t he sire, like, twenty kids?
LYDIA: Yes, that’s documented, along with a considerable amount of music. I’m sorry, I’m unclear as to what his prodigious skills in the marital bed have to do with B minor. (Max doesn’t know what to say) Sure. All right, whatever. (she gets up) That’s your choice. (goes up on stage) I mean, after all, a soul selects her own society, but remember, the flip side of that selection closes the valves of one’s attention. Now, of course, siloing what is acceptable or not acceptable is a basic construct of many, if not most, symphony orchestras today who see it as their imperial right to curate for the cretins. So, slippery as it is, there is some merit in examining Max’s allergy. Can classical music written by a bunch of straight Austro-German churchgoing white guys exalt us individually as well as collectively? And who, may I ask, gets to decide that? And what about Beethoven? Are you into him? Because for me, as a U-Haul lesbian, I’m not too sure about old Ludwig, but then I face him, and I find myself nose to nose with his magnitude and inevitability. (removing her jacket and walking to the piano) Come on, Max, indulge me. Let’s allow Bach a similar gaze. (she plays the Prelude in C major from The Well-Tempered Clavier as Max walks to the piano) Sit. (he does) Now, this is all filigree, right? I mean, it could be a first-year piano student or Schroeder playing for Lucy. Or Glenn Gould, for that matter. (she crouches over the keyboard and starts playing the notes molto staccato) Now, it’s not until it changes that you get inside it, that you hear what it really is. It’s a question and an answer which begs another question. There’s a humility in Bach. He’s not pretending he’s certain about anything ’cause he knows that it’s always the question that involves the listener. It’s never the answer, right? (she stops) Now, the question for you is, what do you think, Max?
MAX: You play really well, but nowadays, white male cis composers? Just not my thing.
LYDIA (grabbing Max’s leg to stop it from shaking): Don’t be so eager to be offended. The narcissism of small differences leads to the most boring conformity.
MAX: I guess Edgard Varèse is okay. I mean, I like Arcana, anyway.
LYDIA (walking down off the stage): Oh, well, then you must be aware that Varèse once famously stated that jazz was a Negro product exploited by the Jews. Didn’t stop Jerry Goldsmith from ripping him off for his Planet of the Apes score. It’s kind of a perfect insult, don’t you think? (walking up to the back of the class) But you see, the problem with enrolling yourself as an ultrasonic epistemic dissident is that if Bach’s talent can be reduced to his gender, birth country, religion, sexuality, and so on, then so can yours. Now, someday, Max, when you go out into the world and you guest-conduct for a major or minor orchestra, you may notice that the players have more than light bulbs and music on their stands. They will also have been handed rating sheets, the purpose of which is to rate you. Now, what kind of criteria would you hope that they would use to do this? Your score reading and stick technique or something else? (pause, to class) All right, everyone. Using Max’s criteria, let’s consider Max’s thing, in this case, Anna Thorvaldsdóttir, Now, can we agree on two pieces of observation? One, that Anna was born in Iceland, and two, that she is, in a, I don’t know, Waldorf teacher kind of way, a super-hot young woman. Show of hands. (hands go up) All right, now let’s turn our gaze back to the piano bench up there and see if we can square how any of those things possibly relate to the person we see seated before us. (Max gets up from the piano and starts gathering up his things) Where are you going?
MAX: You’re a fucking bitch.
LYDIA: And you’re a robot.

We started with a monologue from a movie set in Texas, so let’s end with one. Pearl is a scarier movie than X because its monster is aware that she is a monster, and that’s always more interesting. The script is by Ti West and Mia Goth, and they make Pearl’s disordered mind come to terrifying life. This is why you don’t go asking people to unburden themselves. Something like this might spill out.

PEARL: I’m worried that there may be somethin’ real wrong with me, Mitzi.
MITZI: How do you mean?
PEARL: Seems like there’s somethin’ missin’ in me that the rest of the world has.
MITZI: Have you told Howard?
PEARL: I haven’t spoken out loud about it to anyone. I’m so afraid of what people might think.
MITZI: Pearl, Howard’s your husband. He adores you. Afraid to tell him what you might feel?
PEARL: Scared of what I might say.
MITZI: Well, practice on me first, then. Pretend I’m Howard, and you’d say whatever was on your mind.
PEARL: I can’t.
MITZI: You can. Go on, get it all out!
PEARL: Really?
MITZI: Yes, trust me.
PEARL (closes her eyes): Howard.
MITZI: Go ahead, Pearl.
PEARL: I hate you so much for leavin’ me here, sometimes I hope you die. I’m sorry. I feel awful admitting it, but it’s the truth. I was curious about other men. I’m sure you don’t wanna hear about a stranger satisfyin’ your wife, but it was only once. It was a mistake. It wasn’t him that I wanted. I know that now. I wish that things could just go back to the way they were before, but I don’t see how they could. Not after the things I’ve done.
MITZI (scared): What else have you done, Pearl?
PEARL: Oh, Howard. I realize how this all must sound. There was a guy, I was flattered to have someone as handsome as you pinin’ over me. You’re such a good person, I know that. I made sure to always be mindful with your heart. I wanted you to feel jealous. It’s an awful feelin’, like rot, just twistin’ at your insides. I know that achin’ so well. I feel it whenever I see others whose lives could be easy because, truth is I’m not really a good person.
MITZI: Pearl, I think I should just…
PEARL: The reason I kept my eyes to the ground around other men wasn’t to avoid hurtin’ you. It was ‘cause I understood how lucky I was to have your attention. I may be a poor farm girl, Howard, but I’m not stupid. I spotted you the moment you came to live with us. You worked hard like the other farmhands, but you were different. You were from somewhere. A nice, comfortable place that you could return to whenever you wanted. I’m so desperate to have that. All my life I’ve wanted off this farm and you were my ticket out. So I made sure I never let you see who I really was. It worked like a charm, too. Then, when you brought me back to your home, it was all just as I hoped. Love straight out of the pictures. Least that’s what it felt like to me. And you didn’t want it. You just wanted me to stay here on the farm, and it made me so angry. How could you? I was certain you hated everything. To be so selfish and cruel after everything I’d done to make you happy. I was pregnant with your baby. All I ever wanted was to be a mother. I loved the feelin’ of her growin’ inside me. Felt like sickness. Pullin’ and suckin’ on me like some meaty animal in a barn. How could I be responsible for another life? It terrifies me. It’s harsh and bleak and drainin’. I was so relieved when it died. Less weight keepin’ me trapped here, but then the war came and you left me, too. Why did you leave me, Howard? I hate feelin’ like this. It’s so pathetic. Do people like you ever feel this way? I figure you don’t, you seem so perfect all the time. The Lord must have been generous to you, He never answers any of my prayers. I don’t know why. What did I do? What’s wrong with me? Please tell me so I can get better. I don’t wanna end up like Mama. I wanna be dancin’ up on the screen like the pretty girls in the pictures. I want what they have so badly. I wanna be perfect, to be loved by so many people to make up for all my time spent suffering. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and the fear washes over me, ‘cause what if this is it? What if this is right where I belong? I’m a failure. I’m not pretty or naturally pleasant or friendly. I’m not smart or funny or confident. I’m exactly what Mama said I was, weak. But I don’t know why. What did I do? I wish I had a family like yours. I hate what it feels like to be me and not you. I’m so scared that when you finally come home, you’ll be frightened like everybody else is. I know what I’ve done. Bad things. Terrible, awful, murderous things. I regret them now, but I liked how they felt. I wish I didn’t, but I did. At first, it was only animals smaller than myself. Nothin’ with feelings, nothin’ that could hurt me back. Felt good. Killing’s easier than you’d think. Till recently. Mama and the boy from the picture house, they were different. I hurt them so they’d know what it was like to suffer. Poor Teddy wasn’t like that. I wish I hadn’t done that. Mama meant well. She had a hard life. She only wanted a home to feel safe in, I can see that. I thought I hated her, but I just wanna feel safe too. Howard, I made such a mess of things. I don’t know how much more I can take. I need to clean this up. All of it. I need to make things right before you see me again. Maybe if I can turn this farm into a home for us like you wanted, things will finally be different. I can forgive! I can be what you want me to be if you’d just stay with me. (crying) Would you do that, please? I can’t be all by myself anymore, it’s too hard. We can love each other. I’ll do that for you if you meant all that, “Till death do us part.” It’d be enough, just you and me here on this farm. All I really wanted was to be loved. I’ve been having such a hard time without it lately.