THE STORY – A self-destructive punk rocker struggles with sobriety while trying to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success.
THE CAST – Elisabeth Moss, Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin, Amber Heard & Ashley Benson
THE TEAM – Alex Ross Perry (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 135 Minutes
By Matt Neglia
“I always flirt with death. I look ill but I don’t care.”
Every time a door opens and the once absent but now present Becky Something makes her way into a room, she comes roaring like a hurricane. Loud, destructive and messy, she annihilates everything around her, plunging those who care about her into her own downward spiral. Writer and director Alex Ross Perry makes no compromises with this character and Elisabeth Moss is exactly the kind of actress fearless enough to take on the demanding role with energy, rage and volcanic eruptions of emotion.
Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss), is a self-destructive punk rocker who is desperately trying to cling to her band’s former success and glory while her own life spirals out of control due to her addiction and bad behavior. Her bandmates, manager (Eric Stoltz), ex and father to her child (Dan Stevens), single mother (Virginia Madsen) and others are all caught in her ruinous path.
“Her Smell” is told in five extended scenes which play out in real time. The audience is witness to Becky’s behavior right after a successful show, during a rehearsal in the studio, right before performing with a new group of musicians and other scenes in the finale which won’t be spoiled. Suffice to say, Alex Ross Perry chooses the right moments to best display all aspects of Becky’s personality, relationships and how the two are always in collision with one another. However, he forgets the single most important scene of all: her past. Who was this woman before she became the walking ticking time bomb mess of a person that we see in the present? Who is Becky Something?
Well, she’s certainly something. That’s for sure. We are told that not even Becky knows anymore who she used to be and this void makes it very difficult for us to emotionally invest in her recovery and redemption. Each scene is separated by home video predating the scenes being shown when we see Becky’s best moments with her bandmates such as making the front cover of a magazine or receiving a record milestone. However, these moments of joy are fleeting as we thrust back into the voodoo infested, sweat-stained, vulgar, smoke-filled rooms of heartbreak and agony. Becky claims she is trying to move forward, not backward and the same can be said for the film. However, like its lead character, Alex Ross Perry gets so lost in the destructive nature of his protagonist that he forgets to humanize her enough so that when we get to the third act, our investment in the character feels unearned and distrustful.
Elisabeth Moss is a wild force in this film as the lead of a band who is too far gone to realize how awful she truly is to the people closest to her. No one is safe from her downward spiral. Carefree, unpredictable and despicable, Moss delivers one of her best on-screen performances despite being a one-note character. Alex Ross Perry’s handheld camera stumbles, spins and moves with the same unorthodox and sloppy movements as his protagonist capturing a raw and authentic performance from Moss that evokes John Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under The Influence.” The soundscape of the film is filled with the muffled sounds heard from the stage by those backstage, presenting a unique atmosphere that always feels noisy. All of these elements combined make the first hour and a half of “Her Smell” some of the most exhausting and hellish movie watching of the year. By the time we get to the quieter and less chaotic third act, we finally feel like we’re in heaven.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Elisabeth Moss lets loose in a messy, loud, rage filled performance of self destructive behavior and antagonism. Alex Ross Perry’s camera work, decision to shoot the scenes in real time and soundscape all help to create for a unique watching experience.
THE BAD – The despicable character of Becky Something is established unevenly, leaving the third act feeling unearned after the chaotic and exhausting first two thirds.
THE FINAL SCORE – 6/10