Generations of people have grown up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It was such a staple of our childhoods that certain elements of the long-running show are still fondly and vividly remembered even as adults. With A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, there’s a strong chance that some of the memories and feelings you had as a kid might find a way to the surface again even if the movie isn’t exactly what you might expect it to be.
Cynicism has taken over the life of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a hardened magazine writer who’s spent years dealing with unresolved issues from his past. And when he gets an assignment to write a profile of Mister Rogers (Tom Hanks), his skepticism of the popular television host’s values and image are the first things anyone sees. While he’s certain he’ll uncover something that could expose the iconic tv star, he instead finds an opportunity to learn about love, kindness, and the act of forgiveness.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a bittersweet movie that will have a number of people crying or getting teary-eyed at the very least. It does this by simply being human. This isn’t a typical modern-day movie with something highly political to say. It’s just a movie about a guy (Matthew Rhys’ fictionalized version of Tom Junod) potentially growing into something that he never allowed himself to be.
By focusing on that, we’re allowed to understand and connect with him even if we’ve never been in his situation. In my opinion, that’s a cool and smart way to make a movie. It’s important to make the characters we’re asked to follow relatable and understandable. Doing that makes it easier for viewers to want to go on the journey that a film’s protagonist has to go on even when the person is not necessarily electrifying.
With the lead here, I wouldn’t say he was an electrifying personality. In some ways, he’s the kind of person you might meet multiple times over the course of your life. I think the rest of the people (outside of Fred Rogers) we meet in this movie fit into that mold as well. The difference between them and him is that they’re living life and coping with difficulties the way most probably would.
As you can probably figure out by now, Mister Rogers isn’t the main character in this film. However, much of the style and tone we get from A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood fits his character and the television show that many grew up with. And even though he isn’t the official lead, the aura of Mister Rogers cast a large shadow over most of what we see.
I suppose some will be disappointed by Mister Rogers only being a supporting character. The fear might be that he isn’t in the movie much, but that’s something you don’t have to worry about. Because even though he isn’t the main focus, he gets a significant amount of screen time and is the main piece behind how this all moves. You can even say that the movie depends on him more than anyone else because of these factors.
He’s basically the soul of the film even if he isn’t the definitive focal point. Without him and all he brings, the movie could have still managed to work thanks to high quality directing from Marielle Heller, solid performances from the rest of the cast, and sound cinematography, but it wouldn’t be as effective. Of course, since this is based on a true story, you wouldn’t be able to remove him or anything.
Anyway, I would encourage all to take the time to watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood as Tom Hanks delivers a stellar performance in another memorable role. Fans of Mister Rogers will more than likely love what he does here, but they’ll also be able to appreciate virtually everything else that the movie has to offer. Taking all of that into account, it would be difficult to see too many people not liking what they get out of this film.
Director: Marielle Heller
Susan Kelechi Watson
Film Length: 119 minutes
Release Date: November 22, 2019
Distributor: TriStar Pictures
- Score - 8/108/10