*** Evaluate Alex Ross Perry's new rock drama as a riff on Courtney Love's career, if you like, or maybe as a simmering fictional antidote to perfunctory biopics. But there's a more elemental takeaway: Elisabeth Moss gives the performance of the young year as spiraling '90s grunge queen Becky Something. The Mad Men and Handmaid's Tale star is a tornado of mascara, blood and protruding tongue—with the hyperrealism of Raging Bull-era De Niro trying on Robin Williams' schizophrenic comedy. Told in a vignette structure, Perry's film paces feverishly through five specific days of Becky's life. Throughout, the self-destructive punk communicates mostly through nursery rhymes and catchphrases, even reflexively spelling out certain words, as if testing them for lyrics, finding nothing, and scattering them tauntingly into the faces of her bandmates (Agyness Deyn and Gayle Rankin), manager (Eric Stoltz) and ex-husband (Dan Stevens). Her Smell suffers a bit from 15 redundant minutes and some unenthusiastic middle shots in which Becky actually takes the stage, but Moss' performance has a way of not only alleviating these shortcomings but swallowing them. The actor and character generate a gravitational pull, and it's entirely convincing that loved ones, fans and a lifetime of detritus live inside her orbit. R. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Cinema 21.
** What if Eve biting the apple were actually a good thing? That's one way to frame the Satanic Temple, a sort of serious, secular political activist group. This documentary spends time with its members, led by Lucien Greaves, who come off more as irked weirdos than anything else, and traverses the brief history of America's adoption of religious iconography into its civic life during the Cold War. While called the Satanic Temple, the organization doesn't actually worship the devil—or even believe one exists. Instead, it uses Satan as a metaphor for rebellion as it pushes for the separation of church and state. At one point, director Penny Lane excerpts a local TV news broadcast in which evangelicals seeking to erect a monument to the Ten Commandments on the lawn of a state capitol call the Satanic Temple a "satire group." Lane tries to disabuse you of that notion, but the barrage of scenes with members in black robes giggling after they say, "Hail Satan!" kind of undercuts the message. Some parts are interesting—Charlton Heston makes an incredibly odd contribution, and clips of people losing their minds are kind of funny. But it's an artless film, constantly reaching for obvious musical cues and film clips while the subjects are mostly uninteresting doofs. R. CORBIN SMITH. Cinema 21, Hollywood.