AFI Fest Review: Her Smell – She Who Dealt It

Her Smell is definitely the better female rock star movie of AFI Fest. This isn’t even a volcano situation because Vox Lux is no Dante’s Peak, but Her Smell is definitely the Volcano of the pair.

Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) fronts the all girl you band Something She. Becky’s volatility and unreliability becomes harder and harder for others to manage until it threatens to destroy the band, and herself.

Moss is a rock star. She sings well and has relentless energy in the backstage drama. She is also equally good in the more raw and humble scenes that come later. Writer/director Alex Ross Perry really captures the dangerous unpredictability of a character like Becky, and how everyone else around her tries to walk on eggshells until they just can’t anymore. You can try to manage a volatile talent, but Becky never stops and will always outlast you.

The dialogue feels as spontaneous as the random outbursts Becky spouts, but was probably carefully scripted to convey that. Becky is funny, but she’s scarier than she is funny.

Her Smell takes place in five acts, but feels much more cinematic than a five act play. Mostly it’s thanks to the sound design, when aggressive sounds are punctuated, and the pulsating crowd is muffled as the backstage drama unfolds. Editing also directs your focus in a way it wouldn’t on the stage, as the camera gets close in the chaos while balancing the geography of where everyone is in a scene.

It is very much the Moss show but other actors are effective at showing the impact she has on their characters. Becky’s ex-husband Daniel (Dan Stevens) just wants her to be there for their daughter. Ali (Gayle Rankin) and Mari (Agyness Deyn) know they signed up for this in a way if they wanted the band’s success, but she’s found each of their limits. Even manager Howard (Eric Stoltz) is sympathetic to a degree. He just wants her to make it on stage and finish an album but that’s not unreasonable. Career responsibilities matter too.

I would like the soundtrack to Her Smell. There are enough Something She songs, plus Moss’s acoustic piano cover of “Heaven.”

We live in a world where volatile personalities are rewarded and never face consequences for their actions. Her Smell confronts that type of personality and takes it to an extreme where there may just finally be consequences for her. Because she’s a woman. There are still no consequences for men who abuse and threaten others.

Written by
Fred Topel also known as Franchise Fred has been an entertainment journalist since 1999 and specializes in writing about film, television and video games. Fred has written for several outlets including About.com, CraveOnline, and Rotten Tomatoes among others. His favorite films include Toy Story 2, The Rock, Face/Off, True Lies, Labyrinth, The Big Hit, Michael Moore's The Big One, and Casablanca. We are very lucky and excited to have Fred as part of the We Live Entertainment team. Follow him on Twitter @FranchiseFred and @FredTopel

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