Time: 122 Minutes
Elisabeth Moss as Becky Something
Amber Heard as Zelda E. Zekiel
Cara Delevingne as Cassie
Dan Stevens as Danny Something
Agyness Deyn as Marielle Hell
Gayle Rankin as Ali van der Wolff
Ashley Benson as Roxie
Eric Stoltz as Howard Goodman
Virginia Madsen as Ania Adamcyzk
Dylan Gelula as Dottie O.Z.
Director: Alex Ross Perry
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 bandmates, 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.
I heard about this movie a little while ago, mainly the cast, the premise and that it was shown at the TIFF film festival and received some good reviews. Outside of that, I didn’t know what I was really in for. Her Smell is what I’ve heard people say it is, chaotic, grimy and hard to watch at times. However, it is still really good, led by a really great performance by Elisabeth Moss.
Much of the structure of this movie is quite similar to Steve Jobs, and apparently writer/director Alex Ross Perry had said that it really was an inspiration for the structure here. Her Smell is very dialogue based, focussing on 5 particular moments with main character Becky over the course of 10 years. Getting this out of the way, it’s not an easy movie to watch, the primary reason being the main character Becky herself, who is currently on a downward spiral. With this being a dialogue driven movie, the dialogue itself would need to be well written and it definitely was. As good as the writing and acting was, for a while I didn’t really know what I would think about the movie. However, it finally worked for me when it came around to the last third of the movie, the more uncomfortable aspects seems to go away and isn’t as in your face. It really showed a different side of the lead character, which improved the overall movie. The whole movie really was emotionally genuine and very well put together. I didn’t know this going in, but Her Smell really is a reverse rise and fall story, and in that it suceeds. You could also see the last third as like a reward for being able to endure the first two third of the movie. This movie is long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes long and you really feel the length, I feel like it was a little too long and it might’ve been better if 15 minutes or so were cut out.
I haven’t seen Elizabeth Moss in much, I’ve heard of her from Mad Men and The Handmaiden’s Tale but I haven’t seen them. After seeing Her Smell however, I can tell that she is very talented, because her performance here is truly amazing. This movie is really riding on her and she’s fantastic, very offputting at yet times, yet raw, complex and all around incredible. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the year this still ends up being one of the best performances of 2019. The supporting cast don’t get the focus that Moss does, but they still are quite good in their parts. Dan Stevens, Cara Delevingne, Amber Heard, Ashley Benson, Eric Stoltz and others may not be the focus of the movie, but they all do some really great work here and make themselves stand out even when Moss is the forefront of the whole movie.
This is the first film by Alex Ross Perry that I’ve seen, and he’s directed this film quite well. I’ve seen some people say that the way this movie looks is reminiscent of a Gaspar Noe film (without the extreme violence and sex of course) and I can see the comparisons, yet it’s done in a way that it feels like its own thing and not copying other films. It’s very close up and intimate with the characters, really making you feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable (at least for the first half), even when nothing extreme is going on. For a film focussing on a punk rocker, there isn’t a ton of focus on the music over the course of the movie, however when it’s there (whether it’s the soundtrack by Keegan Dewitt or the music that’s actually played), it is great and adds a lot to the movie.
Her Smell is not a movie that will work for everyone. For 2 thirds of the movie, it’s a very visceral experience and I can see how some people would find a large portion of the film to be obnoxious. However it’s a very well written and directed character study that works extremely well for what it is, and it all comes together at the end. I’d say that you should see it at the very least for Elizabeth Moss’s extraordinary performance, it really needs to be seen.