A majority of Alex Ross Perry’s films (Queen of Earth, Golden Exits) are about shitty people whose noxious and radical behavior affects more lives than one. In “Her Smell” Elisabeth Moss stars as Becky Something – The centerpiece of the punk-rock band ‘Something She.’ Self-destructive in nature and recklessly motioning through moments of absolute claustrophobia, the film tackles Becky’s viciousness and eventual relapse into herself.
Directed with absolute razor-sharp precision and a kind of infuriating energy that could be hard to behold, Her Smell is probably Alex Ross Perry’s best film till date. Featuring three sets of separate sequences that focus on the behind-the-stage life of the band, the narrative feels almost new and deranged at the same time. Which not only makes this approach to the self-destroying character study a right one; but also frustrates and engages the audience in Becky’s journey through a time that only feels fast-forwarded in her head.
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Moss is the living, breathing and intoxicating center of this film that starts with her spitting venom on her band members and everyone else that comes in her way. The band, which mostly rests on her triggering vocal power and a feminist theme of self-resilence can hardly handle the kind of maniac, spiked-up energy that Becky storms inside her. She is calm and composed one second and rages a storm of spitting abuses and cocain-induced anger the next.
The band’s fame and her own fucked up personal life – Including her ex’s new girl and deeply inflicting daddy issues are mere reasons that we as an audience can pinpoint when we are divulged into her theatrics. It’s a deeply personal character sketch that firstly nose-dives into the downfall of a star and then gets into little details. Perry doesn’t really mirror us into understanding the exact reason of Becky’s behavior and intense outbursts. Which only makes her character more questionable. But the reason why most of the people stick around makes the case for trying to really understand Becky’s drive as a musician, a band member, an ex-wife, a daughter and also a mother.
Also on the flipside of the story is Howard – A music producer who has entrusted and mostly bared Becky’s behavior because of the contract he has with her. However, when he introduces a trio of new, young girls, Becky feels isolated and constricted to complete one last album that she has in her. At this very moment, we see the actual decay of Her Smell. Perry makes sure that he lets the viewer take up the aura of the stink. Things don’t end there, though. Unlike any other Perry film, the decay is passed on through time and we see a light at the very end of the tunnel.
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The departure of a cocaine-induced act sobers down into a sincere arc of small redemptions that let hope carry some of the load. The narrative automatically shifts gears and a sober Becky is introduced to us. Perry’s greatest inventiveness was actually laying her down bare and making sure that rooting for her is not an offset choice. Her Smell is a film that Elisabeth Moss carries single-handedly. The technical aspects of the film quietly support the inner and outer decay of a devilish punk star with close-ups and hand-held camera-work to amp up the tension and then quietly simmer down as things fall into place.
The greatest asset of Her Smell is making sure that an otherwise awful character gets a sweeping standing ovation. The film ultimately becomes a parable of understanding the fact that togetherness can save more than one soul and every scene that comes in the last act is a testament to longing, change, and growth.