...and for another take, Her Smell is amazing, and maybe not even insufferable enough to really drive the point home. I mean, sure, you get it quickly, and then you GET it, because youíre stuck in it, but you could GET IT even a bit more so that you canít shake the feeling for three weeks. But, you know, itís still great. The final scene is so fascinating...The film is a litmus test. How long can you put up with such an insufferable lead character? You think it could've gone further (or just longer?) It's not that I don't have a few favorite films with unlikable characters, I just didn't see the other side, what makes her compelling. Didn't see it for myself and didn't see it from the other characters trapped in her hell.
Sheís an insufferable lead character. Her band mates suffer her for years. Years. Why? This isnít a hypothetical question, this is a central question of the film. The more of the actual insufferable character you see, the louder that question gets; Why?
You can answer that question before you watch it: They suffer it because theyíre all in it together! BFFs! That answer goes away when you watch the film. She does unforgivable things, and they suffer her.
You can answer that question before you watch it, in another way: They suffer her because she is the Star and they are fame-starved. That answer isnít sufficient when you watch the film.
Eventually, you are forced to answer that question in more nuanced, and perhaps uglier ways: They suffer her because they all went too far, and they were once all equally insufferable. They suffer her because they indulge her even when they despise her. They suffer her because they feel inferior to her whenever others idolize her. They suffer her because it is easier to despise her than to help her. They suffer her because they would rather keep making money than risk intervening to help her. Thatís the kind of answer that arises from extending her insufferability. I donít find her a compelling character, but itís not a character study. Itís an environment study. The environment is so incredibly toxic, and what could be more relevant in todayís #metoo state of heightened awareness? I mean, yes, Golden Exits was a film almost entirely about toxic working and interpersonal environments, and especially he way men take advantage in these environments, but here itís even more toxic, even more rarified and niche, and therefore more easily acknowledged. It may be a film almost entirely populated by women, but that makes the point all the more clear: to overcome an awful environment is not a given, and sometimes not even possible. Doesnít Beckyís insufferability feel inevitable at some point in the film after all of the indulgence and idolizing and exploitation? Thatís the tragedy, and the character is almost an afterthought.
Think about the end of the film: when Becky goes missing, what is the film about? It is as much about the horrible environment that they find themselves in as it is the character who inhabits it. She doesnít succumb to the environment, this once - but there is no victory. She canít even face an encore. There are no shamans lurking in the corridors, but the menace of idolatry hangs in the air.
All that being said: I donít want every film to be Her Smell. If I am going to watch a film like Her Smell, I would rather it go all the way and leave no stone unturned and no environment insufficiently toxified so that the next time I am faced with the prospect of watching a more mildly insufferable character I will watch something else, because there is nothing to gain by going not far enough, and if I am going to experience it then I want all of it. Itís not a litmus test, itís a film of ideas, and you donít need to like or care about any characters to engage with the ideas.