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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Quick Reviews: 'A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood', 'Her Smell' | Tom Hanks, Elisabeth Moss

Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys smiling, Elisabeth Moss with a guitar
A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (L), Her Smell (R)


In a big part of the promotional material for A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, I found there to be a slight disconnection to what you actually get from the film. Maybe it’s because of the critical success of 2018’s documentary, ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’, about an American children’s show host Fred Rogers but there was more attention paid to Tom Hanks’ performance than him here. And even more so to the cardigan wearing Mister Rogers despite that ”A Beautiful Day” looks more at Fred the person rather than Rogers as a TV personality. Even on top of that, the movie revolves around a journalist Lloyd Vogel who is sent out to interview Rogers while he is coming across tumultuous times in his personal life. Those things make the film less interesting but there’s still enough creativity to make up for it.

We’re mostly following Vogel’s (played by Matthew Rhys) journey which features a distant father Jerry (Chris Cooper), a new baby with his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) and his growing friendship with Hanks’ Rogers. Rhys does a solid job as an emotionally shut down reporter even though some of the scenes with Cooper feel a bit overly dramatised and Hanks, whilst looking nothing like the real Rogers, emits the kindness and carefulness to perfection. Their characters' approaches to a two-way conversation differ completely which makes those moments really dazzle, Vogel coming to dig up any dirt he can find and Rogers on the other hand trying to find the human connection between them.

Director Marielle Heller finds some things to spice up the biographical drama elements as the location changes include mixing them with miniature sets, one scene even putting Vogel physically into one. That isn’t the only laudable thing the art department does but the film also uses the replicated version of the Mister Rogers show in key scenes such as the last one. Whenever we follow Rogers between being on camera and then walking off, the movie taps into its biggest potential which is showing how he can talk to an audience with the same impact as when he talks to Vogel. Vogel’s troubles feel insignificant and self-absorbed and his character really only lights up when he’s faced with something opposite of that which is Rogers’ way of communication.

Smileys: Set decoration, directing

Frowneys: Chris Cooper

The way that the last shot is constructed, it’s beautiful indeed.


Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys sharing smiles
Sony Pictures


It doesn’t really take too much wisdom to understand why something like Her Smell wouldn’t break out in a bigger way. There’s a lot of patience required with the story that is told here, being a maniacal piece of filmmaking and near performance art as far as the acting goes. I honestly felt quite uncertain about it all. I admire the courageous and spontaneous attempt that is very apparent from the writing all the way to editing, on the other hand frustration and emptiness that I got from it reminded me a lot about some of the worst films I’ve seen lately. Teetering on the line of unique rockstar tale and messy melodrama, it surely won’t win you over fully.

The way that DoP Sean Price Williams shoots this film directed and written by Alex Ross Perry isn’t in any way perfect or technically bold. What makes it matter however is the point of view that it has on the script and dialogue. We as viewers are on the floor, on the move and frantically going from side to side when there’s pure chaos happening, camera starts to slow down only when the story takes a moment to catch its breath. Camera work presented is the biggest factor in the overall picture that we get from being at the club or studio, Her Smell is a kind of film which I haven’t seen yet stylistically and that is something I’d rather see done even half-right than watch something boring and usual.

The main plot revolves around a rockstar of fluctuating fame, Becky Something who is played by Elisabeth Moss, from a band Something She which is playing a medium-sized club in the beginning. She has a young daughter, substance addiction, problems with her bandmates and enough talent to write gold singles. Dealing with all of those things is where the movie falls flat, it never truly finds a right tone with any of them which leads to aforementioned melodrama.

Perry's script plays out in five acts separated by home video footage which just further turns up the distortion level of mismatching tones. Acts 2 and 5 are emotionally empty and clumsily written while only act 4 hits both the right musical and character notes (a solid, low-key cover of Bryan Adams’ ‘Heaven’ is featured). Besides that cover the performance acting is quite bad. If stunt doubles are needed for things that main actors can’t do physically, then stunt musicians should be a thing when the actors can’t play their instruments.

Smileys: Cinematography, originality

Frowneys: Structure, tone, acting

Kind of repeating myself here but the drum ”playing” in the last act really hurt me to my core.


Elisabeth Moss with a guitar and studio mic
Gunpowder & Sky

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