"Its smell": more than punk nihilism

Before embarking on punishment aggression that defines his first half, His smell starts with about 45 seconds of happiness. Through the grain of a pocket camcorder, Becky Something (an indomitable Elizabeth Moss) and her two punk rock comrades, Something She, are holding a copy of Turn magazine – this is the group's first big cover and a new jewel in the crown of their emerging label. At the very moment that Becky's and his group mates' giggling celebration is starting to become a real exultation, there's still a difficult time, where a radically different storyline unfolds behind the scenes at a Something She concert. Here we are face to face with Becky: drunk, carefree, obviously suffering, without the pink veil of a lo-fi home video.

This is the first of many sudden readjustments of Alex Ross Perry's bold and fascinating new film. Taking place in five separate acts, the action is limited mainly to green spaces, recording studios and locker rooms. We meet Becky Something on the edge of the flame, with a diminishing celebrity she can no longer control and a child she does not seem to care about. While addiction and schizoid unpredictability punctuate her career, Becky refuses help from family members and continues to test her relationship with friends of Something She, Marielle Hell and Ali van der Wolff. A punk rock icon of a bygone era, Becky solves her personal and professional disintegration by whipping. Anything that gives Becky something of such a compelling stage presence, and that makes him such a hero for his long-time fans, is what puts his loved ones away.


Agyness Deyn and Gayle Rankin as Marielle Hell and Ali van der Wolff

There is a voyeurism inherent in His smell, Perry forces us to face the slow implosion of a rock star who has climaxed. It's often a literal experience, while a moving camera takes us into bathroom stalls and private spiritual ceremonies. Moments of intimacy are often disturbed or made public in an increasingly uncomfortable way as Becky Something descends into the depths of the third act.

But the presence of Becky's entourage is more crucial for this voyeuristic experience. As Becky herself possibly reminds one of her teammates, she is never alone; In granular flashbacks and bloody collapses, Becky is constantly surrounded by other people. The disappointment and embarrassment of Becky and the director of the label that has invested so much over the years have given her so much chance that her self-destructive behavior is getting worse. In a particularly difficult confrontation between Becky and her mother, the camera remains almost exclusively on the face of Becky's mother, highlighting her pain about her daughter's approaching boiling point.

In this scene, as in many His smell, the tension persists between Sean Price Williams' closed and claustrophobic cameras and the physical relations between the characters. As members of the group, family members and fans parade on screen, they are constantly in shock from the tornado Becky Something in the moments when she crosses the gates of the street to make plans very the physical reluctance of those around him betrays a sort of emotional weakness, or a willingness to allow his worst tendencies. We intuit as much by these moments of unconscious physical expression as by Perry's tirelessly original dialogue.


From the first time we see Becky play, it is clear that despite all her disgusting and destructive tendencies, she has something incredibly magnetic. Even at worst, she exploits an irresistible charisma that draws people to her. There is a recurring line in His smell about "The Becky Show," as if it were his world and the rest of the characters lived there. But far from being a unique and polarizing personality, the film ultimately talks about the collective, these people attracted by Becky, even if they know she will disappoint them. These characters constitute a complete solar system, turning conscientiously and inexorably around the unstable star that will eventually engulf them. Even after all that Becky has done to them, these people love her and care about her. Perry manages to capture in great detail the experience of non-reciprocal love – that is knowing an addict or someone unable to help themselves; the emotional center of the film lies both in Becky and in the faces of those around her.

His smell is more than your typical punk rock nihilist odyssey. If its first three acts are a descent into hell or a kind of heroic katabasis, the last two represent a clear and measurable growth. When the curtains literally close at the end of the third act, Perry suddenly embraces a much cooler tone palette, with blues, grays, and whites as the dominant color scheme. When the anxious and detuned roar of the score ceases, like tinnitus mitigation, Becky Something finds herself sober, with a new discipline and a new perspective. But even in those quieter moments, there are still a lot of stopping moments at the end, when Perry amuses himself to drop everything into disarray.

For a movie about accepting the collapse, His smell shows a surprising amount of heart. At the end of the film, when Becky dropped us more times than we can count, and when we almost completely lost confidence in her, a sequence of sensational moments between Becky and her daughter (with a cover of the heart of Bryan Adams ("Heaven") gives us a reason to believe in her again. The Redemptive Ark of Becky Something is a testament to the idea that even in our darkest moments, close personal relationships offer a chance for salvation.

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