‘A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood‘ is a film based on the Esquire article “Can You Say … Hero?” by Tom Junod, who interviewed children’s’ TV show icon Fred Rogers. The movie is directed by Marielle Heller and released through Sony Pictures Releasing.
Cynical Esquire writer Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) visits his sister Lorraine’s (Tammy Blanchard) wedding with his Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) and their newborn son. While there, Lloyd gets into a fistfight with his drunken father Jerry (Chris Cooper), who tried to apologize for abandoning him as a boy. When he returns to work, his editor Ellen (Christine Lahti) assigns him to do an interview with Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), the host of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. He travels to Pittsburgh where he spends just a few minutes with Rogers. These few minutes greatly move Lloyd, who does not believe Rogers is who he says he is but is just playing a character and grows frustrated when the TV host starts to try to connect with him. However, as he spends time on the set, meets Rogers’ wife Joanne (Maryann Plunkett), and opens up, he feels his cynicism eroding as he enters the world of Mr. Rogers.
I have two problems with the movie. First is the transitions. They are rushed from scene to scene and that moves at breakneck speed. There is a dream sequence that just kind of ends, so when the next scene starts, you are not sure if it still the dream or if the plot is continuing. The second is that is not the biopic that the trailers promised, so you do not really learn about Mr. Rogers or his past. It focuses more on Lloyd’s family and how Rogers impacts him, though it does take time to debunk the urban legend that Mr. Rogers was a sharpshooter in the military.
Tom Hanks truly shines as Fred Rogers. Like other historical figures he plays, Hanks dives completely in the role and it really shows. At times, I smiled at the familiar scenes of the Neighborhood from when I watched reruns on Saturday mornings. There is no comparison and I doubt anyone could have played the character with so much charm and marvel.
As for the rest of the cast, they are just as impressive. Rhys and Watson give incredible performances as the Vogels. You truly see Lloyd start to doubt his worldview and feel the frustration of his wife who just wants him to be a good father. Likewise, Plunkett as Mrs. Rogers showed a different side to the story and it was one that brought an insider’s perspective to their life.
One thing I noticed is how Mr. Rogers is personified. As I mentioned, the movie is not a traditional biopic, so instead of focusing on the story of Fred Rogers, it showed how he impacts the world from the perspective of Vogel. He is almost an imaginary friend who is always there with a kind word. It was definitely reminiscent of watching the program and having a sense of peace that there was someone as wholesome as him in the world.
Bottom line, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is a charming tale of a man who inspired three generations of children. While the scenes do hop a little too quick, Tom Hanks shines as Mr. Rogers and truly welcomes us into the Neighborhood.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Foul language, Minor violence, Drunken brawl
FAVORITE QUOTE: Fame is a four-letter word. What matters is what we do with it.
Check out the trailer below:
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