Her Smell (2019)


Direction: Alex Ross Perry
Country: USA

Elisabeth Moss delivers a powerhouse performance as a collapsing rocker who struggles to quit drugs, overcome insecurity, and become a dedicated mom. The actress, alone, worths the ticket to Alex Ross Perry’s sixth feature, Her Smell. However, there was nothing she could do, in this second collaboration with the director (the first was Queen of the Earth), to elevate an erratic script overloaded with unbalanced furor and trashy tension. Oddly enough, the film’s most annoying parts are the ones that easily come to mind, such as the scabrous self-destructive scenes that last forever and a sloppy, sentimental solo rendition of Bryan Adams' “Heaven” on piano, which equally lasts forever.

The neurotic, selfish, and emotionally torn Becky Something (Moss) leads a provocative indie rock band named Something She, whose smashing success becomes compromised by drug abuse, freakish religious ceremonies that serve to avert negative spiritual forces, and the gradual deterioration of her relationships with bandmates Marielle Hell (Agyness Deyn) and Ali Van Der Wolff (Gayle Rankin).


Despite dozens of sold out concerts and financial stability, Becky can’t put her life together, assaulted by family traumas and cross-feeling conflicts regarding her little daughter, who was appointed as her future downfall by the phony spiritual shaman Ya-Ima (Eka Darville). It all spirals into offbeat grungy chaos that could have been less histrionic if handled by someone else other than Perry. Here, he seems more preoccupied in emulating Cassavettes with a bit of supernatural anxiety, than really adhere to an unfluctuating story. The filmmaker pointed out Guns N’ Roses’ vocalist Axl Rose as the prime influence for Becky’s character. Nonetheless, her style and looks are totally Courtney Love.

While the wild days of this rock muse felt intense, protracted, and tiresome, her isolation phase was boring, failing to make any further grasps for significance.

Firstly mounted like a humorless bizarre circus and then transforming for the flimsy redemption of its protagonist, Her Smell lacks essentially a tuneful note, lingering too much time in an uncomfortable dissonant universe.


Golden Exits (2018)


Directed by Alex Ross Perry
Country: USA

Golden Exits”, the very much-expected return of 33-year-old American writer/director Alex Ross Perry, happens to be a futility, regardless the dedication of its ensemble cast. Embracing a one-tone ambiance, this low-key drama is deeply anchored in indulgent conversation, lacking the poetic vision of “Listen Up Philip” and the claustrophobic tension of “Queen of Earth”, which remains Perry’s best film so far.

Perry imagines a 25-year-old Australian woman named Naomi (Emily Browning) arriving in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens, NY, to fill the position of archivist required by Nick (Adam Horovitz), a local bourgeois. Perspicacious and attractive, Naomi is a natural seducer and her daily presence with the boss - five feet apart and nine hours a day - becomes a concern for his wife, Alyssa (Chloe Sevigny), who already went through some tribulations in the past regarding infidelity. Also, his unmarried and ever-present sister-in-law, Gwen (Mary-Louise Parker), a manipulative liar according to him, doesn't squander the chance to speculate a bit more and warn everyone she’s attentive. She usually confides with her assistant, Sam (Lily Rabe), whose presence feels redundant, as she doesn’t add anything worthy to the story.


Regardless the suspicious atmosphere lived in Nick’s house, Naomi doesn’t make a move toward her boss. It’s quite the opposite, actually, since she sends him home on his birthday, after an unexpected visit in the middle of the night. However, she decides to re-direct her seducing spell to Buddy (Jason Schwartzman), a family friend of her age who lives in the neighborhood and recently opened a music studio with his wife, Jess (Analeigh Tipton).

The material, feeding on both complex and unbalanced relationships, only works sparsely. At the minimum sign of surprise or tension, everything gets lost in the rational monotony of the dialogues. Moreover, the characters feel shallow and distant, making us not to care about their residual problems. Every problematic circumstance they might experience seems to have exactly the same emotional weight. 

Cinematographer Sean Price Williams kept emphasizing the warm tones of the captured images in order to compensate the coldness and linearity of the fictional individuals. However, not even the numerous close-ups did the magic trick. 

Emotionally parched, “Golden Exits” is a film of misconceptions based upon choices, behaviors, and romantic frustrations. In the end, it leaves us stiffly cold and utterly disappointed.