Her Smell ★★★★

Basically ARP trying to do his own spin on a Shakespearean (backstage) drama, complete with wild entrances/exits, a trio of witches, spritiualist frauds, seances, and—surely his favourite—a number of floridly theatrical, self-consciously verbose monologues, asides and exchanges, expertly delivered by the game cast. It's thrilling and marvelously calibrated—as brazenly theatrical as, say, Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs, but with an accompanying occult-ish, drug/alcohol-fueled breakdown à la Climax (there's also a baby!)—at least until the end of the third "act." Slightly marred by the fourth section (which I not unreasonably assumed was the coda), since it engages in pat psychologizing re: Becky's implied daddy issues ("You're more like your dad than you think"), and her own relationship with her daughter (also an issue in Steve Jobs though there's nothing as bad as Sorkin's "I'm gonna put 100 songs in your pocket" rooftop climax). And ultimately, I might prefer the version of this that ends with the third-act curtain call (plus the home-video footage following the fade-to-black, which already provides a lot). The last act, though interesting in the way it revisits the opening ("Never seen this place sober"), is a bit superfluous, puts too much emphasis on recapitulating previous details, and mines easier tension from the threat of relapse. But it still has stuff like the strikingly lit seance ("My name is... I am here for you. Thank you all for being here with me"), which ARP just allows to linger as faintly menacing detail. "What did we just do?" one of them asks after it's over and Becky has left, having apparently gotten what she needed.

An impressively varied, able supporting cast supports Moss' layered tour-de-force of narcissism and open hostility—and though the music scene depicted here is unfamiliar to me, this seems pretty sharp regarding the passage of celebrity without putting too fine a point on it, since it's allowed to just be one part of the heady mix. (A star is born? "I was born ready. Doesn't everyone know that by now?") There's Eric Stolz (now far removed from The House of Mirth) as the smarmy, perpetually harried label manager; Dan Stevens as the hot ex-husband that keeps coming back; Dylan Gelula, immediately recognizable as "Janelle from Support the Girls," as one of the younger band that Becky manipulates; and so on. Only felt marginally antsy during the overtly sentimental fourth section with its faintly redemptive arc ("Do you know about forgiveness?"), so it was a pleasant shock to discover that this actually runs a hefty 135 minutes; props to editor Robert Greene for how fleet this feels. Based on his previous films (even the excellent, underrated Golden Exits), it wasn't clear to me that ARP had this in him. But then, maybe he's also pre-emptively lashing out at those who, as Becky says, "Don't want artists to change." Sean Price Williams continues to impress behind the camera, as does Keegan DeWitt with his score, though the person(s) responsible for the percussive, disorienting sound design should probably take MVP. Not hard to see how one would find this grating, but it's so impressive that even the godawful title is easy to forgive.

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