Her Smell Review | NYFF 2018
This Film is Not Yet Rated
Bow and Arrow Entertainment
2 Hrs and 15 Minutes
Dir and Writer: Alex Ross Perry
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin, Dan Stevens, Amber Heard, Ashley Benson, Eric Stoltz, Lindsay Burdge, Dylan Gelula, Virginia Madsen
Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) is a '90s punk rock superstar who once filled arenas with her grungy all-female trio Something She. Now, she plays smaller venues while grappling with motherhood, exhausted band mates, nervous record company executives, and a new generation of rising talent eager to usurp her stardom. When Becky's chaos and excesses derail a recording session and national tour, she finds herself shunned, isolated, and alone. Forced to get sober, temper her demons, and reckon with the past, she retreats from the spotlight and tries to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success.
It is too soon after finishing “Bojack Horseman” Season 5 to witness a film about a mentally unstable, out of control, self-destructive star blinded by their own fame, but goddamn Elisabeth Moss is a force to be reckoned with. At this point, I’m convinced Elisabeth Moss can do anything. Her streak of powerful performances continue and never ceases to amaze, and Becky Something is another addition to the list. Becky Something is truly something else. If Joan Jett and Daffy Duck conceived, Becky Something would be their offspring. She has the musical stylings as the musician with the “Bad Reputation”, but has the same manic personality as Daffy. Energy-wise, Becky is at an eleven and everyone else is at a moderate six. Just like Daffy Duck, she is selfish, self-centered, hyped up, intimidating, and frighteningly spirited. She’s so unpredictably dynamic that it is terrifying. You have so little of an idea of what she’s going to do next that I was waiting for her to WOO HOO HOO HOO:
You despise this woman and her attitude while she burns everyone to create her own fire, but you’re enthralled by what she says and does. She’s a wild card who keeps you guessing. Hell hath mercy upon anyone who encounters her because she will wrap you up into her messed up world. You sympathize with all of the people who surround Becky, especially her bandmates who can’t stand her attitude anymore, her ex (Dan Stevens) who would not even be associated with her if it wasn’t for the fact that they have a child together, and a new generation band who idolizes her that she takes under her wing and transforms them from perky and optimistic sweethearts who are full of life to just being completely stressed out. This woman turns anyone she encounters into shit. As I said, this is a very character-driven story that breathes nearly the same aura as… “Bojack Horseman”, oddly enough. We follow this character while they make nothing but terrible decisions. She is the punk girl version of Connor4real and the rest of her bandmates are the Style Boyz.
With all that glittery makeup she wears, I can envision Moss as a villain in a big blockbuster because damn she can do crazy so well. I joke that she’s like Daffy Duck but honestly she channels her inner Heath Ledger because she is as psychopathic as The Joker. Fuck the current Joker and the future Joker, Elisabeth Moss is my Joker.
#ShesMyJoker (Make it a thing)
But, Moss doesn’t spend the entire movie completely hyped up. What drives her performance home is the third act where she’s more calm, but still expresses a great range of emotion. Even Moss’s singing voice embodies all of the musical stylings of a late 90s-early 00s rebellious punk musician.
Sorry I spent so long expressing how incredible Moss’ performance is, but this story is literally pioneered by her. The story isn’t much other than the fall of a famed star whose music is unable to compensate for her ego. The story is mostly set backstage before, and sometimes after, her band’s live performances where the unnerving mayhem takes place. Alex Ross Perry’s direction keeps this two-hour-plus movie well paced, for it moves forward primarily because of the amazing framework. The camera movement that goes on with each sequence is so precise that you feel immersed with the insanity that is happening. So much chaos occurs the entire time Becky is backstage causing hell, yet the camera always captures the right movements and frame works on cue. There are plenty of long takes, but they don’t go full-on “Birdman” as it always cuts to a character's reaction, but the immersive feeling is present and never lets up.
When does this take place? The 90s? 80s? There are several scenes of archival footage of Becky’s band that bear a similar atmosphere to segments from “MTV Behind the Stage”, but you can never distinguish when exactly this takes place in. Is it a modern day story? A period piece? It never establishes a clear answer.
The score in the background is done by Keegan Dewitt who did an amazing job with the music from “Hearts Beat Loud” earlier this year. But the score sounds so similar to a running engine mixed with a heavy vibration and is way too on-the-nose, for it only plays as Becky goes crazy. Like her, the score is mysterious and intimidating and adds a level of intensity, but it’s literally the same sound that gets repetitive throughout.
The movie is very fast paced and bolstered with high energy. Our lead character is schizophrenic and in order for you to catch up with her you have to be as quick as her. There is an appropriate time of day to watch “Her Smell” so I heavily advise you don’t watch this in the morning. I’m not just saying this because I saw this at 10 in the morning but…
Also, WHY IS THIS MOVIE IS NAMED “HER SMELL”??!! The title has nothing to do with this story at all and also undersells the movie itself because it makes no sense. It’s a terrible name for a movie which is too powerful for its own title. This could’ve been called “Becky Something”. Plain and simple. It’s the main character’s name, it’s enticing enough as a title, and her namesake is one of the central themes of the movie. “Her Smell” is not a good name and it should be changed… soon. And not last minute like what Warner Bros. did with “Edge of Tomorrow”. In case you didn’t know, the 2014 Tom Cruise sci-fi flick “Edge of Tomorrow” had a title change when it hit home video. It became “Live, Die, Repeat”. DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE!
Engrossed with an unnerving performance by Elisabeth Moss who can do just about anything, “Her Smell” is an intense and captivating musical drama that is seriously way too good for its terrible title.
Rating: 4/5 | 82%
Super Scene: Becky’s onstage meltdown.