HER SMELL (2019) is an indie film about a punk rocker named Becky whose band once filled stadiums, but her star is fading, with pressures included playing smaller venues, weary band mates, creative emptiness, a nervous record company exec, new bands taking her limelight, and an ex-husband raising their child on his own.
Elisabeth Moss rocks the lead role, proving once again she’s one of the best actors working today, and it was fun to see Eric Stoltz onscreen again, who’s rocking 57. The film excels at showing the stress of success without the usual over glamorizing and focus on drug addiction, and there’s a redemption story here that’s an important one, where if your star fades, let it go, get back to basics, and give love instead of hurt to the people who care most about you. The film has a few stage performances that are fun and frankly the film could have used more of.
Unfortunately, most of the film is Becky being a train wreck, undergoing dramatic mood swings in the first act, then viciously attacking everybody in her life in the second, to the point where I wasn’t sure if I was watching a movie about a declining rocker or mental illness. The acting is impressive and the tension well staged, but the conflicts are shallowly rendered, with the ultimate result for me being exhausting rather than rewarding. The film could have benefited from showing Becky’s fall so we care about her comeback, injecting more rock and roll and taking out about a half hour of shouting, and having a tighter reign on character.
HER SMELL has an 85% score on Rotten Tomatoes, so people are responding favorably to it, and I agree there’s a lot to admire here, though the end result didn’t quite work for me. As always, YMMV.