Film Review: Her Smell – 8/10

‘I thought you were better than this, but deep down I knew you weren’t…’

There has long been a misconception that rock ‘n’ roll is a glamourous and money-spinning exercise that sees everyone who has sold a few records sitting upon a gilded throne while underlings provide them with sex, drugs and adoration. That is only true for 0.1% of rock bands. For the rest of them, being a creative is a slog. Her Smell examines this dichotomy coupled with the twin glare of addiction and mental health issues…

Her Smell comprises five vignettes charting the life of Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) – the volatile lead singer of fictional rock band Something She. We begin with Becky spinning out backstage after a bizarre confrontation with a faux mystical shaman as her bandmates (played by Agyness Deyn and Gayle Rankin), her ex-husband (Dan Stevens) and her mother (Virginia Madsen) all try in vain to keep her under control. Thus we are introduced to the whirlwind that is Becky Something.

Your tolerance of Her Smell will depend on how much you can handle watching a character and protagonist who is thoroughly unlikeable for much of the movie. Moss’ performance is astonishing. The amount of mostly incomprehensible dialogue she must deliver while constantly moving is exhausting. This becomes a very physical performance and therefore is unlike anything Moss has delivered before. Elsewhere, the ensemble cast does a great job of depicting how thoroughly demoralising it is to have your personal and professional lives be so intrinsically linked to someone so unpredictable, particularly Deyn, Stevens and Eric Stoltz (portraying the band’s long-suffering manager). A word too for Madsen who delivers a performance that mainly comprises of staring at her daughter aghast or blinking back tears. Powerful stuff.

Her Smell will no doubt be a divisive movie simply because it is so abrasive, but viewers interested in the rock ‘n’ roll myth will find plenty to enjoy here in the majesty of Elizabeth Moss and the assured direction of Alex Ross Perry.

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