J’s Verdict – ☆☆☆☆
Well that was a nightmare.
HER SMELL is so visceral, so tightly wound, so emotionally draining that it works to grind you down till you feel as seedy as the film feels.
At one point, in the third vignette, there’s a bucket on the floor catching the murky waters of a leak in the ceiling. As the scene goes on, and the musical score warbles industriously like a Silent Hill soundtrack, the water hitting the bucket leads it’s own pulsing tortuous rhythm – right down into the hell that is this narrative, this life of Becky Something.
Elisabeth Moss is a tour de force in the role, if The Handmaid’s Tale had not convinced you she has the chops. She seethes, she spits, she snarls her way through every scene and bit of dialogue to the point you either want to get far away from her or just let her tire herself out. That I’m stuck contemplating either course of action is a testament to the performance and to script.
She’s backed up a winning supporting cast – Dan Stevens as her estranged husband, Eric Stoltz as her weary agent, Virginia Madsen as her mother questioning where she went wrong and her fellow band mates Gayle Rankin as Ali the drummer and Agyness Deyn as Mari the bassist.
As writer / director Alex Ross Perry gets all the naturalism of a band backstage and with it all the grit and intimacy that comes with it. His writing feels real, accentuated by the fine performances he lifts from the cast, and overall it’s a blistering and nerve-shredding experience.
It’s not a movie I can see myself watching ever again, I think, as exceptional as it is at times – it’s thoroughly unpleasant and tense – but it’s one I’ll recommend to friends and family alike should the topic of terrific dramas come up.