Her Smell – Punk·e

90’s punk drama, Alex Ross Perry’s new film is played by Elisabeth Moss, whose psycho rocker role echoes mad and junky Courtney love. Focus on an ambivalent experience.

By Garance Lunven

Reading time 3 min.

Her Smell


This year, musicals are fashionable…. and mostly disappointing: Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, or Yesterday. All of them are fictions and biopics celebrating the rocker myth dying as he’s famous…. Those which depict characters coming back to anonymity almost don’t exist. Her Smell
evokes the decline and resurgence of Becky Something, played by Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale, Mad Men).

Lead singer of the fictional girl band Something She, 90’s grunge superstar, famous for her escapade. She’s running out of inspiration and offsets her artistic mediocrity by playing tyrant. Irresponsible mother, junky, bipolar, Becky collects flaws like others collect stamps. Hard to have empathy for a character who spends her time yelling and kissing cameras… Just like Courtney Love, she’s not one of these idols teenagers stick up on their bedroom’s walls. Not plain enough. By the way, we blamed Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend for her misconduct, even though we glorified Nirvana’s singer, Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrisson for the same reasons. But when we take a closer look, she’s the one who survived and they are the one drugs sent six feet under… Well, who’s the most rock’n’roll? Becky is also part of this punk feminists’ club who flirted with death. Temptation and fear turning into obsession when she’s convinced her own daughter will cause her death and she physically attacks Ali, her band’s drummer.

Becky is not one of these idols teenagers
stick up on their bedrooms’ walls.

Larsen & rehab

After almost one hour of hysterical yells, we conclude the young director from New-York Alex Ross Perry (it’s his third film with Elisabeth Moss) wanted to stage an unpleasant character. The film becomes awkward, even oppressive. Frantic camera’s movements and the claustrophobic atmosphere with a real work on the sound make us want to turn the speakers off as our ears are painful because of long minutes of larsens. Not to mention these exhausting scenes of incantations half-Buddhist, half-New Age which give the film an occult dimension.

Yet this film turns out to be less opressive as it evolves, translating the artist’s sobriety. Just like a play divided into different acts. On the plastical plan, Her Smell offers an aestheticized vision of rock’n’roll with a lot of second roles with a sulfurous image (Cara Delevingne, Agyness Deyn, Amber Heard…). A funny meta-speech which offsets the impression of déjà-vu.

Piercings & leather boots
We can count female rockers’ films on the fingers of one hand. We won’t go back to The Rose (1979), inspired from Janis Joplin’s life. But we might refer to the electrifying and vibrating bopico of The Runaways (Floria Sigismondi, 2010), which is about Joan Jett and Cherie Currie’s lovestory. Or Nico, 1988 directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli, a sensible film about the last years of the Factory‘s muse. And Ricki and the Flash (2015), Meryl Streep’s performance, as a rocker without success. And if any good rocker film combines these three ingredients: leather suits, drugs and electric guitars… Her Smell is going to please everyone who’s looking for a good shot of anti-heroin.

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