It reeks, it lingers. Her Smell invades, it threatens, it’s aggressive and it’s dirty, draining. It’s a riot in full swing. Yet amidst the assumed chaos, it becomes tender and honest, an exploration into addiction and the punk rock scene of the 90s, but even more so into identity. What can be repaired after not only hurting the ones we love, but ourselves in the process?
Alex Ross Perry’s five-act tale of rockstar rampage and recovery is unapologetic and unpredictable, proving to be one of my favorite and one of the most exciting films I’ve seen this year. It was borne out of Perry’s incessant need to not only explore multiple act structure (after being inspired by the three act structure of Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs and by Shakespeare), but push the envelope on his creative relationship with Elisabeth Moss. The pair had previously worked together on 2015’s Queen of Earth, similarly dark and ruptured. Her Smell raises the bar and sails clean over it.
The role of Becky Something, our enigmatic, perpetually inebriated, crass, and readily dislikable star was written completely for Moss. When she smiles, it’s more with wickedness and less with joy. We know little about her rise to the top. It is only shown in bits and pieces through the home videos played before each act, and all about her ruin.
Chris Papierniak’s debut aims to be a hard-packed punch, but rather, is a flame that burns for too long – rising, subsiding, and threatening to fizzle out if not for its core performance. The pink-tinted dream sequence that opens the film seems ill-fitting and amateur, as does the narrative that’s been almost as roughly cut as our main character. Stylistically, there’s an evident attempt to appear more “punk rock” or “grunge” than is needed, but the film is certainly not a total loss. Mackenzie Davis’ lead turn as Izzy, our anti-heroine and the pulse of the film succeeds in knowing when to charge in and when to pull back, affecting the right tones and nuances of chaos.
Izzy is a mess. Reckless and aimless, she’s destroyed nearly all relationships in her life. The rest are hanging on by thin and ragged threads. An aspiring musician, her career has fallen to the wayside after her sister – played (and for too short a time) by the brilliant Carrie Coon – leaves their duo group. Broke and scrambling for shining pieces of her past as a performer and her past relationships, she curses, yells, schemes, and hustles her way the f*ck across town. She runs blindly, headfirst into the golden streets of LA, gambling with her friends and acquaintances, most of which are fed up with her antics or are about to be pushed to their limit of patience. Izzy wants to be a scrappy little somebody, but she’s really just scrappy as she wrecks her way through the day, marked in eight chapters with a ninth following (without any spoilers) the day’s conclusion.
Natalie Dormer returns to the big screen as Sofia McKendrick, a blind pianist who overhears what the police dub to be a suicide in the apartment upstairs. The deceased is Veronique (Emily Ratajkowski), daughter of accused war criminal, Zoran Radic (Jan Bijovet). Set in London, the modern day thriller pulls from familiar tropes to create something new. The project was borne out of Dormer and director Anthony Byrne’s mutual frustration with the “landscape of female characters” in the genre and succeeds in producing an imperfect, complex, and three-dimensional female lead. This is a landscape that since evolved, but one that continues to be in need of growth. It also reveals itself to weave in the theme of violence against women, which is incredibly relevant in our society today with the rise of the #MeToo movement.
With an increase in popular psychological thrillers following the phenomena of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it’s a shame that this one should be swept under the rug. While the film would certainly have been improved with the aid of a larger budget (it was shot on-location in 25 days), it still prevails with the little that the overall project has been afforded. Nearly a decade in the making, Dormer (who co-wrote and produced) and Byrne have created an engaging and entertaining addition to the genre.
Picnic at Hanging Rock has been adapted for the screen once again. This time, as a six-part miniseries distributed by Amazon Prime. Based on the classic 1967 Australian novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock will be available to the public on May 25th. However, it might even be more appropriate to think of it as a “six-hour film” as many of those affiliated with the project have dubbed it.
While you may be acquainted with Peter Weir’s mystical and highly heralded film, so far, Picnic through the lens of the 21st century, is a promising and relevant reimagining. It fails to fall into a singular genre, shifting between the titles of drama, horror, thriller, and the expected historical hues of period dramas.