Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – 2 Stars (out of 5)
Based off the international best seller by Patrick Suskind, the film follows the life of Jean-Baptist Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), a whackjob perfumer obsessed with creating the perfect scent. Using his enhanced sense of smell Grenouille falls in love with the natural scent of beautiful women, and becomes obsessed with finding a way to capture and bottle that scent into a perfume.
Making a deal with a once-great perfumer (Dustin Hoffman) now on hard times, Grenouille trades the secrets for countless perfumes to learn how to capture scents. Okay so far.
Then he goes on a madcap murder spree killing young beautiful women to make the ultimate perfume. Did I lose you? What does one have to do with the other, you might ask? Well that’s hard to explain; the concept is either brilliant or ludicrous based on your idea of odor.
I never read the book but I assume the inherent oddity makes the reader want to continue page after page. On screen however it comes off as more sick and voyeuristic. This is a film you are going to like or dislike, perhaps strongly. I lean more to the later. The killer is unapologetic and truly evil but lacks the Hannibal Lecter charm, yet he’s still the protagonist of the piece. His victims are almost all nameless, and you can’t even dismiss his actions as insanity because…well, if you want to, you’ll see.
Even though I didn’t care for the film it is well made and there are several nice performances including Hoffman and Alan Rickman, and John Hurt provides some rather droll, if sometimes too book-ish, narration. Despite this however I still felt uncomfortable and need of a shower after almost 150 minutes of this character study of a serial killer who just wants the world to smell nice. I can’t recommend it, but there is certainly a market for this type of film.