R | 2h 14min | Drama, Music | Now playing in select theaters and on all digital platforms including iTunes
Synopsis: Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) is a ’90s punk rock superstar who once filled arenas with her grungy all-female trio Something She. Now she plays smaller venues while grappling with motherhood, exhausted bandmates, nervous record company executives, and a new generation of rising talent eager to usurp her stardom. When Becky’s chaos and excesses derail a recording session and national tour, she finds herself shunned, isolated and alone. Forced to get sober, temper her demons, and reckon with the past, she retreats from the spotlight and tries to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success.
Review: I have been following the film HER SMELL the same way others might follow a band’s music tour. As it played film festivals across the nation it gained momentum and numerous accolades. I was intrigued by the story line and the transformation of Elisabeth Moss into a washed out punk rocker. I had the chance to see it at the Dallas Int Film Festival and it lived up to the hype; and more. Moss can certainly add this to her greatest hits catalogue and her name should be heard quite a bit come award season.
Becky Something (Moss) is a 90’s punk rock icon finding herself in the fading limelight. Though a pioneer her glory days are behind her for sure. As you watch her you get the idea that her persona is important to her not only for the fame but as a shield to protect her from reality. She has a failed marriage, a baby girl she can’t bond with, an estranged mother, frustrated band mates, and more than her share of drug and alcohol demons. She has been riding the fame train full speed for decades and the thought of deboarding is terrifying.
The script is strong but it is Moss’s performance level that makes this film so possessive. From start to finish she is in front of the camera, wringing herself out, pushing her character to exhaustion. Though you may get frustrated with Becky – and empathize with everyone around her – you can’t help but be mesmerized at the same time. She is so volatile that as a viewer you are almost scared of her. You want her to leave the scene for just a few moments so you can relax. There is a fine line that actors walk when needing to be over the top but not come off as over dramatic. Moss uses that line perfectly. You never feel tricked or manipulated. You buy into her 100%.
Applause needs to be given to writer/director Alex Ross Perry. Perry does an amazing job of capturing the backstage club scene. If you have ever spent time in the back areas of rock clubs you know they exude a damp, sticky, almost toxic vibe. The mix of sweat, adrenaline, and alcohol create an odor that is both intoxicating and repulsive. It is a world all it’s own. Perry’s able to bring all that to the screen so that the viewer feels it on their skin and tastes it on their mouth. It is quite an experience for all the senses.
A band takes every member showing up to succeed and the supporting cast in this one all deliver strong roles. Dan Stevens plays Becky’s ex husband trying to raise their daughter and keep her away from the toxicity while also hoping that the child can open Becky’s eye a little. Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, Amber Heard, Agyness Deyn, and Gayle Rankin all play fellow bandmates and musicians in Becky’s universe of chaos.
Music is the backdrop of the film and there are a few musical numbers. They too are intricately designed to feel organic to the movie and Becky. The musical moments by Moss are raw and emotional. Perry makes the smart move to not rush through them or cut away too soon. He allows the songs to breathe – especially near the end – and play out as long as needed.
HER SMELL is an adult drama for sure and a must see. It is rated R for language throughout and some drug use. You will be exhausted at the end and emotionally drained. That tells you that you got everything from the cast and crew they had to offer.