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With: Elisabeth Moss, Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin, Dan Stevens, Eric Stoltz, Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, Dylan Gelula, Virginia Madsen, Amber Heard
Written by: Alex Ross Perry
Directed by: Alex Ross Perry
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout and some drug use
Running Time: 134
Date: 04/12/2019

Her Smell (2019)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Something or Other

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After a headache-inducing first half, this erratic, overlong rock 'n' roll drama slows down and grabs a breath, and it's possible to see that Moss's volcanic, 5000-degree performance is the real thing.

In Her Smell, rock star Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) — lead singer of Something She — spirals out of control. She alienates her bandmates, Marielle Hell (Agyness Deyn) and Ali van der Wolff (Gayle Rankin), her manager Howard Goodman (Eric Stoltz), and the father, Danny (Dan Stevens), of her baby daughter, among others, with her awful behavior.

Wasting hours upon hours in the studio, she gets a charge when a new, young girl band (Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, and Dylan Gelula) walks in. She demands to record with them, and it's the final straw for her old bandmates. Years later, newly sober, she's afraid to leave the house. A visit from Marielle, Danny, and her daughter allows her to open up about her feelings. But her greatest challenge is yet to come: reuniting on stage for an anniversary show.

Viewers that make it through the first half of Alex Ross Perry's unfortunately-titled Her Smell will be rewarded, but it isn't easy. An hour or so of screen time is marred by crazy camerawork, a droning, thumping sound design, and screechy, theatrical performances. Dialogue that should sound spontaneous instead sounds written and rehearsed, like a ranting, rejected stage play. It's all extremely high-pitched and exhausting.

But when the story cuts to years later, with Becky Something slowly, methodically making a cup of tea, and staring into the middle distance (waiting for a chicken-shaped kitchen timer to tell her the tea is steeped), the performance finally begins to take shape.

The movie and the character become grounded, and the range and intensity of Moss's work recalls nothing less than Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire. Her Smell tries for a victorious ending, and it doesn't entirely click, but by that point Moss has completely won us over.

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