HER SMELL Film Review: A Stream of Consciousness Descent into Madness

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Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Cara Delevingne, Dan Stevens, Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin, Ashley Benson, Dylan Gelula, Virginia Madsen, and Amber Heard

Directed and written by: Alex Ross Perry

SYNOPSIS: A self-destructive punk rocker struggles with sobriety while trying to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success.

REVIEW

From minute one Her Smell gives the impression that nothing will ever be ok for main character Becky Something. She lives the stereotypical rock and roll lifestyle, which is unfortunate for her fellow band members and her daughter. Though Becky and her band, Something She, won awards and praise for their groundbreaking music, that clearly was not enough for her. She turns to ritualistic medicine, hard drugs, and fan worship to attain a high.

Spoilers Ahead!

Her Smell has a familiar formula. Band is awesome, band hits hard times, band breaks up. The real fresh element of the film is Becky. She is part drug addict, part cult leader, part downtrodden creative. When a new girl group comes into Becky’s life her immediate instinct is to bring them to her side. She employs a lot of methods of seduction that felt more than a little creepy. These moments are not made better, or more acceptable because of Becky’s gender. I was very uncomfortable watching her touch and put her mouth on the younger women in her recording studio. Nothing in the film supports her actions, to be clear. These moments are hard to watch and make it apparent how much Becky does to alienate herself from her friends and family.

My favorite aspect of the film is the attention to ritualism and the fascination with alternative worlds. Becky is convinced she can communicate with parallel worlds, and see visions of her future. Even after she hits bottom and tries to recover, she uses her dreams and visions to justify her behavior to her friends. Her daughter’s father killed people in a past life, so she was horrible to him in the present. This kind of thinking never leaves her. This isn’t a film about her being fixed, but about her finding balance.

I found a lot of this film somewhat off-putting, but I definitely think it was done intentionally. There is very little exposition. Becky doesn’t necessarily go through a period of change or development. Instead, the movie shows the start juxtaposition between her period of success, and her later fall from stardom. You don’t get to see a lot of the time in between those 2 extremes. There are some time jumps that aren’t clearly defines, but you can pick up on them easily enough. This is definitely not the kind of movie I would usually gravitate towards, but I’m glad I gave it a chance!

The movie is now playing in theaters across the country, look for showtimes and locations at https://www.hersmellmovie.com/

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