Her Smell ★★★★

2019: The Pieper Review -- Film #195 (3/25/2019)

Elisabeth Moss is a force of nature. Her work as Something She lead singer Becky in Her Smell overshadows Jason Schwartzman's in Listen Up Philip, making Moss' performance the finest in all of Alex Ross Perry's exceptional filmography. Volatile, verbose, and venomous in equal measure, Becky's battles with her band mates, manager, shaman (you heard me), and anybody else in her orbit is thrilling enough, but the battle at the heart of Her Smell is against herself and addiction. Although this may sound like exactly the kind of music biopic formula critics ragged on a few months ago with Bohemian Rhapsody, Perry escapes most of the trite formulaic traps in favor of a less conventional storytelling method. Told in a series of five extended fragments, Her Smell is a punk rock character study that keeps Perry's trademark scathing dialogue intact, but also showcases the most untethered filmmaking in his entire canon so far. Much is owed to Cassavetes. At some points, Perry's latest feels like a chief acolyte's mash-up between A Woman Under the Influence and Opening Night. Fortunately, Her Smell is mostly able to overcome these derivative comparisons with the distinctive touches of one of America's very best writer-directors.