Alex Ross Perry’s new film Her Smell presents a story that is familiar, but injects it with a unique sense of realism, resulting in a marriage between the cynical and effervescent joy.
The film follows Becky Something, a fading indie darling who is a member of Something She (think Sleater Kinney and Bikini Kill). Becky is going through various substance abuse problems and this causes her to isolate the people around her. While the plot is derivative and may remind audiences of past biopics such as Bohemian Rhapsody, the film does inject originality into this tired format. While there are traces of melodrama and silliness, the film relies on realistic dialogue, unique editing and handheld camera movements to make the events organic.
Regular Ross Perry collaborator Elisabeth Moss gives an outstanding performance in the lead role. She balances the mental and physical challenges, with most of the tension in the drama coming from her character alone. While her character can be unlikable at points, the script is smart enough to have moments of realisation and raw emotion to keep you with her on the journey. Agyness Deyn who plays Marielle Hell, is the yin to Becky’s yang, and despite this aspect being engaging, the characters could have been developed further and this would have made the finale more earned.
What is successful are the themes concerning mental abuse, change and forgiveness, which audiences will relate to, and the true emotional power of the film comes from these explorations through character. Admittedly, these themes are most evident in longer scenes, which allows the audience to absorb the atmosphere; however, it also causes notable pacing problems. This issue is especially jarring in the first half, but once you’re equipped for Ross Perry’s unique approach to the drama and actors, as the film goes along, these issues become less apparent.
Her Smell is a solid entry into Alex Ross Perry’s filmography (Listen Up Philip, Queen of Earth, Golden Exits). If you like rock ‘n’ roll themed films with a dash of heart, then you’ll find much to appreciate.