Film Review: HER SMELL (USA 2018) ***

Her Smell Poster

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


Alex Ross Perry

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.




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 valerian.jpgA dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

Director: Luc Besson
Writers: Pierre Christin (comic book), Jean-Claude Mézières (comic book)
Stars: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen

Review by Gilbert Seah

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is the new widely anticipated French science fiction action film written and directed by Luc Besson best known for THE FIFTH ELEMENT and LUCY. The film, based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline, written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières is to date the most expensive French film ever made at a price rage of $197 million euros. To break-even it has to make $350 million worldwide. It is a big a risk as James Cameron’s AVATAR but the film is stunning in its visuals and imagination and comes highly recommended for Besson’s vision and delivery of this space opus to the big screen. It be best seen in 3D and on the biggest screen possible.

The film opens with an alien species on a distant planet. They speak a different language and lead a different lifestyle, in tune with nature giving their planet back what they receive from it. This is reminiscent of the blue AVATAR creatures in the James Cameron’s film. An apocalypse happens and their planet is destroyed. On the other side of the Universe, a dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe. Nothing makes much sense in the film’s first half, but writer/director Besson keeps the audience’s curiosity strong. It is during the second half that the story comes together, becoming more of a conventional film with the fight between good and evil, with Valerian and Laureline being the space fighters and peace keepers working for ‘the government’.

But it is not the story that will astonish the audiences. The visionary action sequences consisting of computer generated landscapes and creatures of all shapes and sizes will mesmerize. The best of these are three information selling beaked liked creatures who speak both simultaneously but separately forming sentences that are hilarious and brilliant. The capture of the jellyfish on the mammoth sea creature providing some genuine action and thrills and the butterfly bait fishing are inspirational set pieces. Another memorable scene has Laureine wearing a huge hat with the top of her head exposed only to find her brains about to be eaten by an Alien Emperor, the way Chinese used eat monkey brains as a delicacy before the practice was banned.

Much negative reviews have been posted of the lead actor’s Dane DeHaan’s performance as Major Valerian. DeHaan is a young 31-year old American actor with some Dutch background, hence his Dutch surname, who has proven himself able to carry a lead role in the recent but badly received A CURE FOR WELLNESS. In that film DeHaan demonstrated a different kind of hero, a vulnerable one, as in this one, full of character flaws like impulsive decision making, unlike other space action heroes like hans Solo or Luke Skywalker. His partner, co-fighter for good against evil and love interest, Lareline is played by Cara Delevingne who emits sexiness and charisma. They do exhibit good chemistry on screen, and her speech on love at the film’s end though cliched, works. Supporting performances by Clive Owen as the villain and Ethan Hawke are also impressive.
Rihanna plays an alien dancer who performs a Sally Bowles in CABARET type dance forms one of the film’s best musical dance numbers – amazing and unforgettable combined with special computer effects. Music is by Alexandre Desplat.

For all its flaws, Besson’s brilliantly conceived film still scores top marks as a futuristic space action adventure. Much better than THE FIFTH ELEMENT and the new STAR WARS film series.


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Happy Birthday: Cara Delevingne

caradelevingne.jpgCara Delevingne

Born: August 12, 1992 in London, England, UK

I want to fall in love, I think. I’ve never. I know. Everyone I know’s been in love or in relationships now and . . . There’s only ever been . . . there’s been people telling me they love me, but it freaks me out and I just run, run. I think I’m a bad girlfriend.
The energy you give off is the energy you receive. I really think that, so I’m always myself–jumping, dancing, singing around, trying to cheer everybody up.
Kids should speak to each other. They’re horrid to each other online, they bully each other–they should shut up and stop it. The problem with social media is there is too much freedom. It’s too much, too young.