Directed by Alex Ross Perry, who also produced the film with its star Elisabeth Moss, HER SMELL the film could also be re-titled HER STINK as this is a warts and all account (mainly warts, actually) of the lead singer, Beck (played by Moss) of a fictitious female punk group called ‘Something She’ – whatever the name means. HER SMELL is the name of the club Something She is performing during the film’s opening act.
The members of ‘Something New” are Beck herself, and two others, Marielle (Agyness Deyn) and Ali (Gayle Rankin), who Beck constantly abuses and bullies until they finally freak out and give up on her. Later, they sign of another 3-girl punk rock band.
If Beck does even show up for her band’s show, she will abuse verbally and occasionally physically all those around-her. These also include her record label owner, Howard (Eric Stolz), her young daughter, a toddler who she screams she is playing rocket with, tossing her into the air and at one point even falling to the ground and almost dropping her.
Her husband or ex-husband, Danny (Dan Stevens) shows up with the daughter but clearly there is no chance of a re-conciliation due to Beck’s awful behaviour.
Her band members are no angels either – snorting coke or screaming foul language.
The punk songs heard on screen are not half bad, and are originally written.
The film runs long at over 120 minutes, and director Perry seems to have given his star Moss Carte Blanche to do whatever she wants to do. Moss delivers an uninhibited performance if it not electrifying is definitely unforgettable. It is an Oscar worthy performance, though one would think the members of the Academy would want to give the award for a role so demented. Moss is brave enough to show her ugly side. Moss can be beautiful as at the end of the film or just plain ugly when she is nasty. The camera reveals Moss ugly side – her sweaty palid skin full of zits and pimples.
The film’s plot is simple. It shows the self destructiveness of Beck in Something She. She finally gets the act together and achieves redemption which is largely due to the love of her daughter. But the film has one main glaring flaw – the turning point. For someone to make such a radical change from evil to super good, there must be a drastic event to cause the one hundred eighty degree change in behaviour. This is missing. One can also not understand the reason Beck’s boyfriend or mother (Virginia Madsen) continues to stay at her.
This is not the first movie about a self-destructive recording star – Bradley Cooper’s A STAR IS BORN, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and VOX LUX with Natalie Portman portraying an almost identical character being recent examples. The question is whether anyone would want to pay good money to watch another caustic journey of a self-destructive female punk. But I must admit that I was moved.