A Man Named Pearl



An inspiring if ultimately less than invigorating documentary portrait, Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson's "A Man Named Pearl" concerns Pearl Fryar, a topiary artist living in the depressed town of Bishopville, S.C. Born the son of a poor sharecropper, his inspired creations have elevated him to a certain level of celebrity in which he is often described as a real-life Edward Scissorhands.

Fryar, now 68, used to work in a factory and came to his new vocation fairly late in life, when he encountered resistance while trying to buy a home from prejudicial whites who complained that "black people don't keep up their yards."

Determined to prove the stereotype wrong, he took a crash course (a demonstration lasting but a few minutes at a hardware store) and, working with discarded plants from a local nursery, eventually transformed his 3 1/2-acre yard into a wonderland of abstract living creations. The results have gone on to attract sightseers from around the country, and his town is now determined to exploit his skills to help turn their moribund downtown strip into a tourist attraction.

The film's subject is a highly appealing, modest sort who has breakfast every morning at the local waffle house (he and his wife eat free thanks to his topiary contributions to its parking lot). He's also extremely youthful and vigorous, a point demonstrated by the open leering of some middle-aged women at his well-honed, lithe body.

Unfortunately, the film, which includes endless testimonial from local friends and fans, stretches the viewer's patience even with its brief 78-minute running time. Lacking visual or narrative depth or sophistication, it ultimately comes to resemble the sort of heartwarming human interest story used to fill out space on a local news broadcast.