“Promise me mama, when I die, have the coffin arrive half an hour late and on the side written in gold letters: ‘Sorry for the delay.’”
Alex Ross Perry and self-destructive, self-sabotaging and unlikeable protagonists – name a better duo?
Following 2017’s Golden Exits, Perry tackles the ever popular music drama in his own, somewhat narcissistic gaze.
Although it’s not a biopic, some definite Courtney Love vibes are felt in Her Smell. It’s blessed with many inspirational female lead singers (from the 90s especially) who have carried such on and off stage power that still echoes through the alt-rock choirs of today.
Her Smell is about the band Something She, fronted by Elisabeth Moss’ Becky Something. Becky is an out of control loose cannon who ranges from wickedly loving to demonic and possessed within seconds, threatening to tear her band apart.
Agyness Deyn and Gayle Rankin complete the band, with melancholic musings clinging to former glories and histories. Perry has previously been unflinching in his depiction of the modern female (and male) hipster, and he continues to write multi-faceted, damaged characters for his female leads, who unravel into more understandable and perhaps relatable vessels as the movie progresses.
The old saying ‘You always hurt the ones you love’, rings true as Becky Something disintegrates while trying to stay sober and there’s the subsequent battle to recapture the fire that led Something She to initial success.
Elisabeth Moss delivers a powerful performance, so convincing in her conviction, convulsing, warped by fame and drugs and absolutely believing her own bullshit from start to finish.
Agyness Deyn puts in a notable effort as the band’s voice of reason, strong and sharp, she holds her own, alongside the fresh-faced Gayle Rankin, star of Netflix’s Glow, gleefully taking the brunt of the abuse from Becky Something.
There are smaller roles for Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson and Dylan Gelula as The Akergirls – a supporting band who become sucked into the Something She vortex along the ride.
The most prominent male character is Eric Stoltz’ Howard Goodman, the manager, who’s consistently flimsy and self-serving throughout, looking to make ends meet how he can.
Discourse between love interests is often a focal point of Perry’s films. In Her Smell, Becky Something’s ex-partner is there, but only on the periphery as he tackles something bigger than failed relationships, substance abuse, and an existential crisis for a woman at the peak of her powers, he is tasked with raising the former couple’s young daughter.
Her Smell is like Bikini Kill meets Hole meets Garbage. The 90s alternative scene is a nostalgic injection to the temple. It’s honest, true and awful. If anything, it’s slightly too long, split into acts, it offers no respite until the final act.
Her Smell keeps Alex Ross Perry firmly in place as a figurehead of contemporary American independent cinema, reaching further with themes but staying true to his obsession to close family relationships.
A fresh and original injection into this suddenly oversaturated genre.