Perfume is definitely not for everyone. It is about Jean-Baptise Grenouille (Ben Whishaw, Q from Skyfall), a strange man who has an incredible sense of smell. Over time, he becomes obsessed with preserving smell using whatever means possible. Many parts of the story really make me pause to recommend it to others, especially the fate of all the beautiful women Jean-Baptise terrorizes in his insatiable desire to capture scent.
In many ways, the movie reminds me of a dark fairy tale- the original Grimm's fairy tales in which truly macabre, gruesome things happen beside the fantastical. There really are not too many fantasy movies and one thing I really enjoyed about the movie is how confident it was visually. It shows us what Jean-Baptise smells through its beautiful visual scenery and really immerses us in a different world. In particular, I loved seeing the flower harvests in perfume-town Gasse.
The movie fluctuates in tone between the serious and lighter areas. It really works best when it does not take itself too seriously and plays up the dark fairy tale aspect, which it does well when Jean-Baptise first learns the perfume trade from a highly entertaining, struggling perfumist, Baldini (Dustin Hoffman). The always wonderful Alan Rickman also makes a memorable appearance as Richis, father to Laura (Rachel Hurd-Wood), a girl who becomes Jean-Baptise's object of obsession.
I really wish the women in this movie were given more to do than be victims of Jean-Baptise. Laura is really the only female character in the movie and she really does not have much to do except look lovely and suffer in silence between two unappealing choices.