A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Her Smell is a drama about the lead singer of a fictional band who spirals out of control and then tries to pick up the pieces. It's tough to watch -- especially the erratic, headache-inducing first half -- but eventually Elisabeth Moss' strong, dynamic performance wins the day. Expect plenty of mature material: The main character is said to have an addiction problem (though she's rarely seen actually drinking or doing drugs), a secondary character snorts cocaine, and people smoke cigarettes. Language is strong and frequent, including "f--k," "s--t," and more. A broken bottle is brandished (some blood), and a character falls and sustains a bloody head wound. Two women kiss in several scenes.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In HER SMELL, rock star Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) -- lead singer of the band Something She -- spirals out of control. Among others, she alienates her bandmates, Marielle Hell (Agyness Deyn) and Ali van der Wolff (Gayle Rankin); her manager, Howard Goodman (Eric Stoltz); and Danny (Dan Stevens), the father of her baby daughter, with her awful behavior. Wasting hours upon hours in the studio, she gets a charge when a new, young girl band (Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, and Dylan Gelula) walks in. Becky demands to record with them, which is the final straw for her old bandmates. Years later, newly sober, Becky is afraid to leave the house. A visit from Marielle, Danny, and her daughter allows her to open up about her feelings. But her greatest challenge is yet to come: reuniting on stage for an anniversary show.
Is it any good?
After a headache-inducing first half, this erratic, overlong drama slows down and grabs a breath, and it's possible to see that Moss' volcanic, 5,000-degree performance is the real thing. Viewers who make it through the first half of Alex Ross Perry's Her Smell will be rewarded, but it isn't easy. An hour or so of screen time is marred by crazy camerawork; a droning, thumping sound design; and screechy, theatrical performances. Dialogue that should sound spontaneous instead sounds written and rehearsed, like a ranting, rejected stage play. It's all extremely high-pitched and exhausting.
But when the story cuts to years later, with Becky slowly, methodically making a cup of tea and staring into the middle distance (waiting for a chicken-shaped kitchen timer to tell her the tea is steeped), the performance finally begins to take shape. The movie and the character become grounded, and the range and intensity of Moss' work recalls nothing less than Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire. Her Smell tries for a victorious ending, and it doesn't entirely click, but by that point Moss has completely won us over.
Talk to your kids about ...
What do you think the upsides and downsides might be of performing music for a living and being famous? Does the movie make it look appealing?
How are women portrayed in this movie? Are they well-rounded, with their own lives, desires, fears, etc.?
What are the movie's mother-daughter relationships like? What went well, and what could be improved?
- In theaters: April 12, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: May 11, 2019
- Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Agyness Deyn, Dan Stevens
- Director: Alex Ross Perry
- Studio: Gunpowder & Sky
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 134 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout and some drug use
- Last updated: November 13, 2019
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