April 22, 2019

GENRE | Elisabeth Moss Destroys 'Her Smell'

Elisabeth Moss Alex Ross Perry | Her Smell

Prolific indie filmmaker Alex Ross Perry has crafted a boldly audacious pseudo musical biopic starring a towering Elisabeth Moss (in their third collaboration) as fictional rock star Becky Somebody. Not unlike Steve Jobs, Her Smell unfolds over several distinct, highly dramatic events across a decade in the life of its self-destructive, narcissistic subject for a truly theatrical (somewhat claustrophobic) drama.

Full of excessive bravado and clearly fuelled by some cocktail assortment of hard drugs, Moss' Becky tears apart her once influential '90 riot grrrl grunge rock trio through the first three of five acts before wildly flaming out. Filmed mostly in tight close-ups and unbroken shots in real-time by cinematographer Sean Price Williams on 35mm, its an unnerving portrait of utter and total self-destruction before a very slow, methodical attempt at redemption.

Egged on by their adoring protégé girl rock group the Akergirls, played innocently by Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, and Dylan Gelula, the band Something She's history slowly reveals a sordid past of dysfunctional turmoil. Furthermore, as Becky's fed up bandmates Agyness Deyn and Gayle Rankin play the roles of enabling cohorts deftly in reacting to the sheer insanity of the central character more than ably.

Elisabeth Moss Alex Ross Perry | Her Smell

Dan Stevens as Becky's long-suffering ex and baby daddy portrays exasperation and frustration adoringly. Virginia Madsen and Amber Heard also show up in small but effective turns as her worried mother and one of Becky's musical contemporaries turned rival rock star. Finally, Eric Stoltz does some of his best work as the band's dotting manager.

Moss captures so much earnest toxic hostility (think Courtney Love) beyond being just a slow-moving human trainwreck. In the last two acts, she carefully reforms the strung-out Becky into a cautious shell of her former self. Set in tight, windowless spaces, Perry removes all distractions and outside elements to heighten the sense of personal drama when the characters' histories collide.

Perry and Moss make for such a dynamic filmmaking pairing. Her Smell both rocks and saunters about with relentless dramatic energy. Full of faded glory and human hysteria, the often very loud film is a culmination of their work jolted with some unnerving '90s era musical influences.

Her Smell screens at the Rio Theatre starting April 26th and will be available on iTunes and video on demand on May 10th.


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