Alex Ross Perry is aware the “Her Smell” awards campaign lacks the money to give his punk rock character study a full blown media blitz (compared to how gigantically Netflix can campaign for “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story,” the campaign for “Her Smell,” distributed by Gunpowder & Sky, is but a speck), so he’s taking matters into his own hands. Perry has released an open letter campaigning for his leading actress Elisabeth Moss, calling her work as destructive musician Becky Something one of the finest performances of her career.
“Her Smell” landed Moss both a Gotham Award and Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Actress, but her performance is still considered to be a distant long shot when it comes to the Oscar race. The film is the third collaboration between Perry and Moss after “Listen Up Philip” and “Queen of Earth.” Critics showered Moss with universal praise when the film launched at TIFF 2018. Gunpowder & Sky released the film theatrically in April.
“We weren’t released by a company who would send you a bottle of ‘Becky Something’ branded whiskey or comparable tchotchke as a means of soliciting free social media advertising,” Perry writes. “So, here I am, spending my time trying to put into words how one of our finest actresses delivered one of her finest performances. I am and will remain proud of the fact that even the most dismissive reviews couldn’t deny the power of this performance.”
Perry continues, “It wouldn’t be honest of me to pass up an opportunity to give this performance one final cheer from the sidelines and hope that it is seen as the once-in-a-great-while alchemical blend of writing, directing and, most crucially, acting that it is.”
IndieWire named “Her Smell” one of the 100 best movies of the decade earlier this year. Senior film critic David Ehrlich hailed Moss’ performance as “feral and unforgettable,” writing that “the actress stomps through the movie like a piss-spewing cross between Gena Rowlands and the Phantom of the Opera.”
Read Alex Ross Perry’s letter campaigning for Elisabeth Moss in full below.
To Whom It May Concern:
Why am I writing this letter on behalf of Elisabeth Moss, commonly regarded as one of the finest actresses of our generation? It’s not like people haven’t realized this by now. She has nothing to prove and has an undeniable track record in both television and film.
Well, I am writing because she gave this astonishing performance in Her Smell, our third film together, and we don’t have the marketing dollars or means to force this back to the forefront of your mind via schmoozy screenings and gifts. Maybe you haven’t seen the movie since Toronto or the New York Film Festival, fifteen months ago. Or, perhaps since it’s release in April of this year. And we weren’t released by a company who would send you a bottle of “Becky Something” branded whiskey or comparable tchotchke as a means of soliciting free social media advertising. So, here I am, spending my time trying to put into words how one of our finest actresses delivered one of her finest performances. I am and will remain proud of the fact that even the most dismissive reviews couldn’t deny the power of this performance.
Lizzie arrived for fittings and band practice on the Thursday before we started shooting, having wrapped Handmaid’s Tale on Tuesday. She had been practicing guitar since buying one four months earlier and reading drafts of the script for over a year. But as we left the soundstage that night, I said, “I’m really curious to finally see what Becky is like.” “Me too,” she said. The unpredictability was what excited me most. We both wanted to fully discover the character for the first time while the camera was rolling.
Then, I got to sit back and watch this force of nature performance take shape one day at a time. Due to the film’s structure of having just five extended scenes, Lizzie needed to create arcs and trajectories typically unseen in films; the kind that only live in theater and after months of rehearsals. We had one day to rehearse each act. She needed to conceptualize and track where Becky would be at in minute 5, 10, 15 and 20. Watching this process, which was and remains a mystery to me, provided a thrilling revelation every few hours. The choices made, both impulsive and meticulous, were present in every footstep, every line reading, every fully-memorized nonsensical tangential rant. And she did it five times, finding five entirely different shades with which to color Becky. She compared it to tracking an entire arc for five seasons of a television character, one after the other, in just four weeks.
I guess I’m just trying to say that I am unspeakably proud to have played any part in willing this performance into existence. Yet still, on my 100th viewing, it feels like magic to me. Lizzie rigorously calibrated this whirlwind of maniacal insanity, sticking to the script while working off impulse and instinct. It wouldn’t be honest of me to pass up an opportunity to give this performance one final cheer from the sidelines and hope that it is seen as the once- in-a-great-while alchemical blend of writing, directing and, most crucially, acting that it is.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and watch the film.
Alex Ross Perry