Alex Ross Perry is a filmmaker that I’ve never fully warmed up to. His films tend to be both slight and pretentious. His latest film is titled “Her Smell” and it is no doubt an audience-test movie —a story about an unlikable character in the form of manic-crazy rock star Becky (played by Elizabeth Moss) who is the lead singer of a fictional all-female band named Something She. Since this film is set in the ‘90s, and these gals hail from Seattle, I presume the music they perform is grunge, although there are definitely punk remnants to it as well. This trio of gals all wear heavy mascara and eyeliner makeup and like to flick their tongues in demonic punk-rock fashion any chance they get, whether it be on-stage of off. I honestly was not down with this movie within the first 10 minutes, I just knew this wasn’t for me, but I stuck around, waiting for the film to gradually improve.
However, clocking in at 135 minutes, “Her Smell” should very much be qualified as an endurance-test for anyone except Alex Ross Perry’s most ardent of fans. The fact that you have to succumb to the camera and follow Becky’s point-of-view during the entirety of this film feels like hell because she’s nothing more than a mean-spirited individual who gets her endorphin rush not just from the drugs she injects, in what seems to be an hourly basis, but most especially from putting down anyone and everyone around her orbit; Some of her victims include her two bandmates (Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin), the opening act (Cara Delevigne, DylanGelula, Ashley Benson), her ex-husband (Dan Stevens), a record-label owner (Eric Stoltz) and her manager (Virginia Madsen). Rather than putting a stop to Becky’s mayhem, these individuals stick around, facilitating her bullying by not calling her out for a good portion of the film, that is until they are near the breaking point of their sanity. Coincidentally enough, that’s how we feel watching the movie.
Things do get better in the final few minutes, when Becky tries to find redemption and make amends for her grotesque behavior, especially when she decides to play a piano rendition of Bryan Adams’ ‘Heaven’ to her little baby girl. It’s a wonderfully humane and intimate moment in a film filled with vile degradation and mean-spiritedness. This is absolute movie hell. [D+]