Kinda Stinky

‘Her Smell’: a Pretentious, Manic Dive into Feminist Rock-n-Roll Madness

I saw the Her Smell movie. First, let’s acknowledge that ‘Her Smell’ is a strong contender for worst movie title of all time. The movie smells a little too, of the flop sweat of a hipster passion project that no one really ordered.

HER SMELL ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: Alex Ross Perry
Written by: Alex Ross Perry
Starring: Elizabeth Moss, Cara Delvigne, Dan Stevens, Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin, Eric Stoltz, Amber Heard, Virginia Madsen
Running time: 134 min


Elizabeth Moss, acting very unsmelegant, plays Becky Something, the charismatically lunatic frontwoman of an aging riot-grrl act called Something She. At one point, Something She said “fuck you” to being on the cover of Spin. Now Becky plays small clubs, does coke, and consorts with shady con-men who call themselves shamans while still chasing her demons. Her Smell smells angry, tired, and addicted. While her husband, a DJ named “Dirtbag Danny,” raises Becky’s boring daughter with a woman named Tiffany who apparently does not talk, Becky can barely stand up straight.

This premise may not be for everyone, but it also doesn’t describe how deeply unpleasant a movie Her Smell actually is to watch.

The movie refuses to present a conventional narrative. Instead, it gives us a half-dozen Very Long Scenes full of nervous energy and self-importance. Our director, Alex Ross Perry, bogs it down with endless Film School Tricks. We endure Tracking Shots, Grainy Flashbacks and Obscure References. The dialogue, an almost incomprehensible patois bogged down by its own lore, sounds like stuff written by a star pupil for his Senior Thesis. Worst of all, Perry fills the soundscape of the movie with an endless, unpleasant drone that sounds like toddlers banging pots in hell.

Also, for a movie about rock-n-roll, the music in Her Smell is neither that good nor that hard-driving. I saw it at the local film society, the kind of place where this movie is screening. Their preview featured a smokin’ basement video version of Oh Bondage, Up Yours! from X-Ray Spex and Courtney Love’s Celebrity Skin video. Both were way more entertaining and rocked harder than any of Moss’ guitar-hero numbers. The longest musical bit in the movie takes place during a mercifully quiet sobriety sequence, when Moss plays Bryan Adams’ Heaven on the piano to her stupid little daughter.


By Bryan Adams!

Do you think Courtney Love likes that song? That scene goes on forever, as people gather around and gaze at Moss like she’s John Denver serenading the Muppets.

Fuck that shit! It smells!

For a movie that purports to pay tribute to the female-centered grunge ethic, Her Smell more than slightly suffers from a male gaze. Toward the end of the sappy, endless climax, the sexy rock women all sit around in a  “séance” circle and state their true names. Exene Cervenka says: MY TRUE NAME IS BARF. There’s a gratuitous and rather long shot of Cara Delvigne, playing a gender-fluid smokeshow rock prodigy, making out with one of her marshmallow-voiced bandmates. I’m sure Perry left even more fap-worthy material on the cutting-room floor.

In Her Smell, the men act all noble and stoic, raising cash and children while the crazy genius women swirl around them. It’s a role reversal, in a sense. But the boys still hold the camera and make the pots clang in the background.

Bikini Kill me now! Oy vey!

Someday, you will ache like I ache.

This concludes my review of the Her Smell movie.

Elizabeth Moss is Becky Something, the fuckin’ tortured genius in Alex Ross Perry’s “Her Smell.”

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Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 12 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer for both film and television, Neal has written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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