It’s really solid work from auteur Alex Ross Perry and his muse, Elisabeth Moss (this is their third archiveable collaboration together)
Part like a faux-Courtney Love biopic, also reminds me (perhaps because of the Cobain connection) of Gus Van Sant’s 2005 Last Days in some ways (but that was meditative and quiet and this is volcanic) and part Steve Jobs (from Danny Boyle) with the specific structure. This is in 5 parts. The first 3 are at various points (either backstage at a concert or recording a record) when Moss’ Becky Something is in freefall. She’s in hell (read heavy in the décor), she’s abusive to everyone- heavy drug-use. She’s in the Phantom of the Opera t-shirt wreaking havoc. The 4th section is her sober phase, she’s at her country house, quiet, and it’s white- during the day with exterior light. The final (5th) segment is her sober trying to ascend back to the stage (and she does). Ross Perry has a triumph here with the use of color as this section is filled with greens. A little mini Scorsese red/green use.
The camerawork is largely cinema verite. Lots of close-ups, longer takes, handheld camera—disorienting and dissonant. The score mirrors that dissonance.
One of the songs (she has 5 to match the 5 sections) is about her being a planet and everyone is in her orbit for sure.
The 5 sections are broken up by home videos of happier days. The formal breakdown and thoughtful structuring is a nice touch
There’s some RW Fassbinder here—an influence on Ross Perry. Moss’ Becky is self-destructive and powerless to stop it. I also admire how Ross Perry doesn’t bend to the normal arcs of a Hollywood film, certainly a biopic. There’s no origin here or easy answers
There’s also the influence of von Trier—not just the Dogme 95 camerawork and realism – it’s how Ross Perry is making this extremely difficult and uncomfortable on the viewer. He’s almost daring you to continue watching (and it’s a daring and bold performance from Moss that should be commended).
A realistic meditation on ego and inner pain
I mentioned it earlier but there’s a bit of a hell and eden— green and red going on. The first three chapters Moss’ Becky is in the throws of her addiction, anger and it’s messy, bloody and the lighting is loaded with reds. Chapter 4 is white, during the day, and washed out. There’s a great frame with her breakfast— Ross Perry sets the mise-en-scene well here.
Chapter 5 is back to the backstage but now the frame is flooded with greens. Yes, I just finished up my Scorsese study so I’m looking for this—but this is no accident. We also have the Bryan Adams song (in chapter 4) “Heaven” (also no mistake, and done in one powerful take). Moss’ “Control” song is superb as well
A Recommend- doesn’t quite land in the top 10 of 2018