Join Soundtrack Stream to Research the article “Her Smell review – Elisabeth Moss on a toxic rock’n’roll rampage | Toronto film festival 2018”
When the party’s over, who has to clean up? That’s the question posed by Alex Ross Perry’s punk drama, an unfocused if convincing account of life at the tail end of the 90s alt-rock boom. Resembling a fictionalised, feminised version of Dig!, the documentary classic about the demise of Brian Jonestown Massacre and their lead singer Anton Newcombe, Her Smell is built around a performance of near-unwatchable toxicity by Elisabeth Moss, who channels a combination of Courtney Love and Heath Ledger’s Joker with her spiteful, slowly imploding rock star.
Moss plays Becky Something, the lead singer of all-girl band Something She, one-time Spin cover stars who are now being lapped on the toilet circuit by younger, hungrier, prettier outfits. Much of the blame for their decline can be squarely pinned on Becky, whose unpredictable behaviour, addiction issues and general obnoxiousness have led to tour cancellations and album delays. Her bandmates Ali (Gayle Rankin) and Mari (Agyness Deyn) have all long since given up on Becky changing her ways but, out of fear of and love for her, are staying glumly on in the band. Becky’s estranged husband is trying a little harder for a clean break, presenting her with divorce papers backstage, but even he still dotes on her and brings their young daughter to the green room to visit her.
Over the course of five extended scenes, we see Becky slowly circle the drain: mistreating her child, verbally and physically abusing her peers, and finally succumbing to a violent breakdown on stage. Ross Perry depicts this spiral in a meandering, semi-improvised style that gets across the sense of chaos but grates over time, with each scene lasting several minutes longer than it probably should. Respite only comes in the form of short, fuzzy flashbacks to happier times for the band, when Becky’s wild behaviour could be chalked up to youthful inhibition.
Your mileage may vary when it comes to Moss’s performance as Becky. Certainly, it’s a world away from her more internalised work on The Handmaid’s Tale, with every tic and mannerism here amped up to 11. When it works, as when Becky is pacing around the studio like a trapped feral creature, it’s electrifying, but a little of this goes a long way.
Why don’t Becky’s bandmates, not to mention her exasperated manager Howard (Eric Stoltz), cut her loose? A scene towards the end gives us a hint of the talent and personality that first seduced them. Sitting with her daughter at a piano, Becky performs a stark rendition of Bryan Adams’ Heaven that finds pathos where the original couldn’t. It presages a redemption of sorts, though Ross Perry is careful not to to provide anything that undercuts the squalor and chaos that came before. An uneven, unsettling film.
• Her Smell has premiered at the Toronto film festival
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Her Smell review – Elisabeth Moss on a toxic rock’n’roll rampage | Toronto film festival 2018