Her Smell (2018, Alex Ross Perry)

Elisabeth Moss plays Becky, a wreck of an alt-rock star in five real-time extended scenes. First, she and bassist Agyness Deyn and drummer Gayle Rankin encore the final show of their tour with “Another Girl Another Planet” – a live show with suspiciously antiseptic studio sound. I did not expect them to go straight backstage into a voodoo ceremony with suddenly oppressive sound design, all rumbling and scratching, nor for Matthew Crawley to show up as Becky’s baby-daddy. Can’t say I recognized Amber Heard (The Ward) as a pop star who offers them some opening dates, nor Eric Stoltz (The Fly II) as their manager. Anyway, the point of this segment is that Becky is an utter mess, dangerous to herself and everyone around her.

They’ve been unproductive for months in a studio (engineered by Notes on an Appearance star Keith Poulson) when a young band intrudes on their turf (Valerian star Cara Delevingne, Xan from Kimmy Schmidt, Ashley Benson of Spring Breakers). Becky wants the new kids to play their song, and again, the music in this movie sounds too perfect, then the doomed grinding soundscape returns. I didn’t quite buy the performances and the mayhem in first part, but by second part it’s real, and I’m reminded that the opening paragraph of the Rachel Handler interview that got me to watch this movie called it “excruciating.”

In the middle part, omg they are opening for the kids… well, they’re not, since Becky destroys everything and has a big public meltdown before they can play a set, focusing rage on her mom Virginia Madsen (whose fortieth birthday was 9/11/01)

Recovery alone in a Last Days-reminiscent house, visited by her ex and their kid with Agyness. Becky still seems a bit crazy, but in a gentle way, and she’s off the drugs and drinking tea, so that’s something. She plays a Bryan Adams song for her daughter, then a good new song for Agyness, which I guess was written by Alicia Bognanno of Nashville band Bully.

Of course, the comeback show. It’s just a label celebration, probably an industry event at the same medium-sized club as section 3, co-performing with the kids and the pop star, and it goes off without a hitch despite everyone getting nervous when Becky makes a comment about “the very end” then goes missing for a spell.

“Exasperating” is another word for this movie – I mostly liked it, but the Vulture interview is better. Yes, Perry has made some cool movies, and the cinematography is by Sean Price Williams (Good Time) and editing by Robert Greene (Bisbee ’17) and they are superheroes, but mostly I want to hang out with the sound designer and whoever made the fake CD artwork over the closing credits.

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