Her Smell

Moss turns it up to 12

We’ve all seen plenty of movies about the rise and fall of gifted, self-destructive musicians, but rarely do they have this level of intensity. We catch up with slowly imploding punk-rock superstar Becky Something on an undisputed slide from her popularity peak, trying desperately to recapture the spark of originality that initially propelled her to stardom, and taking out her frustrations on all the enablers around her. Courtney Love? A pussycat in comparison.

I don’t know many actresses who could pull off what the astounding Elizabeth Moss achieves here. Her mesmerizing performance is raw, predatory, stripped of vanity and hugely charismatic. And perfectly matched to Alex Ross Perry’s kinetic direction, writing and camerawork. 

Some of the dialogue (which seems improvisational but isn’t), particularly in the backstage scenes, is nearly unintelligible, smothered under a pulsating background static. This bothered me until I saw it as perhaps intentional, perfectly reflecting what it might be like to be a fly on the wall in such a place.

This noxious, shattering film is not an easy sit, but it’s impossible to look away. With each new outrage, you wonder when she’ll bottom out and when (or if) she will tunnel through to redemption. Throughout I was wondering how this could end without cliché. It did. (136 min)