Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

DreamWorks is back again, kick starting the New Year with a thriller by Tom Tykwer, who’s legendary RUN, LOLA, RUN will always be a cult favorite of mine. I can’t say I was overly excited to see his new film, PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER, but I did have some high expectations considering his track record. Unfortunately when it was all said and done, (here it comes) the movie pretty much stank.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) is born in the middle of a street and abandoned by his mother. He grows up as an outcast as he has a superior olfactory sense, which weirds the children out. After being a slave most of his childhood, he uses his ultra sense of smell to create the world’s finest perfumes for Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman). He leaves his job to go out and learn how to “capture” smells so he can make the best perfume ever made.

It doesn’t sound quite horrific does it? Well, it’s not quite a horror film nor a thriller – it’s just downright bizarre. PERFUME opens extremely strong and builds a very OLIVER TWIST like story around Jean-Baptiste. We identify with him and are excited about his special “gift”. But then an hour into the film I couldn’t stop fidgeting and asking myself, “where is this going?” I was annoyed by the constant minute long shots of Baptiste sniffing the air. It takes way too long for him to embark on his adventure, which turn into a killing spree… that makes no sense. The killing in this movie was as idiotic as the finale of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and the same exact problem. In PIRATES they need a little blood to release the curse, they don’t need to kill here- just cut your hand and lift the freaking curse! In PERFUME Baptiste needs the exterior flesh of women to capture their sent, he doesn’t need them to die! I’m sure Tykwer could explain why to me, but there’s not much to justify a pointless killing expect for suspension of disbelief.

I think had I not been so bored the final 60-minutes of the torturously long film (147 minutes) I may have been able to look past the inconsistencies. But thinking past the subtle problems, when you get to the finale of the movie not only are you going to be fidgeting in boredom but you’re going to look at whomever you’re with and say “what the f-ck just happened?”

I understand the dilemma- the entire movie builds up the myth of this legendary perfume… viewers want to see this perfume get made. So what do you do? The correct ending would have been to leave the myth and wonder of what could have happened if he made the perfect perfume, instead they decide to show us… SOILER: PERFUME ends with a citywide orgy where Babtiste is looked upon as an angel at his execution. He could be the messiah.

The ending is not only ludicrous, but completely wasted. The build was too long and by the time we were given our great reveal we just didn’t care anymore. If I had my way I would have been home and working on something more important by the time the film had finally concluded. When it ended, I actually sighed a sigh of relief, that I had made it, that it had finally f-cking ended.

To give props where it is due I will say the acting was extraordinary and that Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman and Dustin Hoffman were unbelievable. The directing style and cinematography were uncanny and the set pieces and wardrobe were gorgeous. Had the movie not been so long and drawn out I think it could have been much more successful.

If you ever see this film, make sure you see it on DVD with the remote in hand, it’ll make for a better experience. PERFUME will not only leave a bad taste in your mouth by a stench of failure in storytelling.

Official Score