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Pixie review – silly but joyous Irish spaghetti western

Olivia Cooke shines as the enigmatic title character in this bonkers genre subversion, co-starring Alec Baldwin as a drug-dealing priest

The world is getting darker each day: a pandemic rages on, oceans are rising, an election is looming, Christmas might be cancelled. Relief is needed in any and every form. And so, while a prospect of a western set in the west of, well, Ireland, might seem unusual, the glimmers of a good time found in Barnaby Thompson’s Pixie are most certainly welcome.

The film orbits around Olivia Cooke as the title character – a magnetic presence, an enigmatic young woman who seems to walk into trouble wherever she goes. Her right-hand men here are Frank (Ben Hardy, a joy to watch come into his own after Bohemian Rhapsody) and his best friend Harland (Daryl McCormack, charming and erudite) who fall into her life in the hopes of winning her over. What ensues is an unlikely road trip involving a drug heist, a violent gang of priests led, for some reason, by Alec Baldwin (baffling and amusing), and murder after murder after murder.

If it sounds like a lot, it’s because is it. But Pixie is best appreciated when studied from a distance. The three performers are sufficiently likeable as to make the whole thing more focused on the sparks flying between them than the script defining them. The twists feel familiar in terms of paying homage to the greats of the spaghetti western genre, and the payoffs matter little. Who dies? Who leaves the continent? Who, ultimately, falls in love with who? Pixie has the answers, but is so ambitious in its questioning that it plays better as a gleeful subversion of all these tropes, focused on its bored and frustrated youth who is simply, finally, allowed to have a good time.

The film’s suggestions about the power of seduction and the limits of friendship make for the most compelling moments, as Pixie uses her influence over the two hapless boys to put herself first. It’s a welcome crumb of feminist relief in a man’s world and in 2020, it feels vital to take all the microscopic joys we can get our hands on.

Pixie is now showing in select UK cinemas.

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