Grade: B+ A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is surprisingly not all about Mr. Rogers.
Many kids’ lives growing up were touched by the one and only Mr. Rogers. Everyone knows his name no matter the age of the person. As a kid, Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood was a vehicle for learning about the world without realizing that you are learning. Mr. Rogers covered some heavy topics to discuss with kids over the years. Topics carefully discussed on the show included anything from bullying to death. Mr. Rogers’ main goal was to educate the children in his unique way that speaks to each child.
One topic that remained constant throughout the run of the show was feelings. As a child, we are not equipped to deal with certain feelings that may arise in the world due to life events. Mr. Rogers helped educate children on how to deal with their feelings during a time of loss or maybe even when the child him or herself was dealing with their personal emotions. Mr. Rogers simply wanted to do good in this world, one child or even adult, at a time. In the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, we see how Mr. Rogers helped out the life of a journalist named Lloyd Vogel while Vogel was going through a rough patch in his life.
While A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is based on a true story, Vogel (played by Matthew Rhys) is actually portraying journalist Tom Junod. The whole movie is based off a 1988 article in Esquire magazine called “Can You Say… Hero?” and the story remains pretty accurate as to what went on. Here, you can find a page detailing what is true in the movie.
Tom Hanks plays Mr. Rogers and it is simply a transformation. Hanks will be fighting with Mr. Phoenix for the Oscar. While Joaquin was the main actor in Joker, I would say that Hanks is surprisingly a supporting actor here. Going into A Beautiful Day, I was expecting a full on biopic on Fred Rogers. The truth is, the movie is not really about Rogers, it is more focused on Vogel and his life while Rogers helps him deal with his feelings. To not spoil anything, Vogel does not have the best relationship with his father and his father’s health is rapidly on the decline. Vogel does not know how to deal with it and while Vogel is supposed to be interviewing Rogers for the Esquire article, Rogers ends up really interviewing Vogel.
While I will admit that some parts of the movie are pretty slow over the course of the hour and forty-nine minute trip back to the neighborhood, I was entertained and mesmerized by the nostalgia being served up via Hanks. The presentation throughout the movie is so well done, at times it feels like an old episode. The filmmakers even had the fake model neighborhood transitions just like the tv show. It was a smart touch that instantly delivered a great dosage of nostalgia. Seeing the set recreated for the show was also very cool to see as it kind of peeled back the curtain on the magic Mr. Rogers possessed.
There is a documentary called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and it is simply a must see but if you’re hungry for more after the documentary, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not to be missed. Hanks’ performance alone is worth the price of admission and you will be transported back to your childhood.