DailyView: Day 318, Movie 453
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a film where I am not sure how to feel. I am torn about how to review or grade this movie, because there are some moments where the film is absolutely mesmerizing and other times it is like a parody.
The film followed the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), from birth to death. Grenouille was born with a miraculous sense of smell and a determination to survive. This film was taking place in 18th Century France so the feel of the film was already one of grubbiness and you could almost smell the odor in the mass of people. One could only guess on what the smell was like for someone with super smell like Grenouille.
So he would become a perfumer because he was desperately looking to recreate the aroma of a woman that he accidentally smothered and killed. The scent of her final moments haunted Grenouille and sent him on his life’s work.
He began his mission by grabbing women and killing them, trying to distill their essence into a perfume to capture the scent that he had experienced at the end of the woman’s life. He was not having any success, but he continued on his murderous mission.
When he came across Laura Richis (Rachel Hurd-Wood), the beautiful, red-headed daughter of wealthy nobleman Antoine Richis (Alan Rickman), Grenouille decided that she would be the “thirteenth” scent he collected and would be the focus of his perfume. Desperate to protect his daughter, Antoine swept her away, placing her under lock and key, but it was all for naught as Grenouille was able to find her and kill her anyway.
While there are some gruesome imagery used in the film, much of the film was beautifully registered by the team. The look of the movie was one of the strongest and most compelling parts of Perfume. At times it felt like a car wreck that you simply cannot take your eyes off.
Performances were top notch. Ben Whishaw was frightening as this bizarre perfumer and it is always great to see Alan Rickman. Dustin Hoffman is in the film too as Giuseppe Baldini, a perfumer who worked out a deal with Grenouille to teach him the skills he needed. Hoffman was so out of place here that every time he was on screen, I thought, “hey, it’s Dustin Hoffman.” That was not what you want for an actor.
The problem was that there were so many moments in this movie that were so ridiculous that it took me right out of the film. There was a moment when the newborn baby, who had been born and deserted beneath a fish market table, was taken to an orphanage. Other kids sensed something wrong with the baby as when one of the kids reached down to see if it was alive, the baby grabbed his finger and pulled it to his nose so he could small it. It looked as ridiculous as it sounds.
There are too many silly scenes like that scattered throughout the movie that end up making this feel more like a spoof than a psychological thriller. And speaking of spoofs, the third act conclusion is perhaps one of the stupidest things I have ever seen in a movie. I was totally out after this. I will not spoil it, but the finale of this storyline was just laughable. However, I did like the final resolution of the character of Grenouille.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer has its moments that transcends the film, but way too many scenes that play against the story that is being told.