Her Smell is a trawl through grunge hell
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Agyness Deyn, Dan Stevens, Cara Delevingne, Amber Heard, Gayle Rankin, Ashley Benson, and Eric Stoltz. Written and directed by Alex Ross Perry. Opens Friday at TIFF Bell Lightbox. 135 minutes. 14A
— “Miss World,” Hole
Apart from Hole frontwoman Courtney Love herself, nobody embodies these bleak grunge lyrics better than Elisabeth Moss does in , a fame-to-flameout movie that leaves scorch marks on the brain.
For the first half of this exhausting trawl through rock ’n’ roll hell, she and writer/director Alex Ross Perry are as hard on the audience as Moss’ Becky Something character is on everyone in her circle.
The put-upon include, but aren’t limited to: her fed-up bandmates in the Something She grunge act, Marielle (Agyness Deyn) and Ali (Gayle Rankin); Danny (Dan Stevens), her estranged husband and father of her baby daughter; Ania (Virginia Madsen), her worried mother; and Howard (Eric Stoltz), her cynical record-label boss.
With raccoon eyes, sallow skin and circus-red lips, Becky is like the meaner sister to ’s Harley Quinn, although she looks like she takes the “suicide” part seriously, being dangerously doped up on booze and pills.
Cinematographer Sean Price Williams brings the camera up close and whirls it around the room to the point where you think you’d rather make an intervention or citizen’s arrest, rather than endure another minute.
Then comes the film’s slower-paced second half, draining in its own way, whereby Becky — real name Rebecca Adamcyzk — has to come to terms with the woman she was and the monster she’s become.
It includes a loss-of-fame moment that’s sadder and more biting than anything in the recent remake of , when a now-sober Becky is visited by her now-former bandmate Marielle, a role Deyn beautifully nuances. Becky wonders if her fans miss her.
“Did anybody ask?” she says.
“Not as much as they used to,” Marielle replies.
It’s the biggest gut-punch in film that’s full of them.
Peter Howell is the Star’s movie critic based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @peterhowellfilm