A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY
Well, I used up all of my Mr. Rogers material when talking about Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and I’ve talked about Tom Hanks in depth before, too, so I guess I’ll cut to the chase. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was directed by Marielle Heller, who also did the Melissa McCarthy drama from last year, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Whereas Neighbor was strictly about the life of TV children’s show host Fred Rogers, Neighborhood approaches the man from the perspective of Esquire journalist Tom Junod, renamed here “Lloyd Vogel.” Normally a hard-hitting, combative writer, he’s assigned to write a puff piece on Mr. Rogers for a special issue devoted to heroes. It comes at a time of change and great turmoil for him—which Mr. Rogers can’t help wanting to fix.
It should come as no surprise that Hanks is perfect as Mr. Rogers: the voice, the manner, even the singing, but the bulk of the film belongs to Matthew Rhys as “Lloyd.” It makes sense; his is the more dramatic story arc, and he was quite good. He’s cynical at first as to whether or not Mr. Rogers is for real; then, when Mr. Rogers probes his defenses, he’s confused and vulnerable, until the personal issues he has involving his family spill out. Heller wisely avoids the big cathartic moment, but she does mix reality with the world of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood at one point in a scene meant to dramatize “Lloyd’s” fractured state of mind.
Overall, Neighborhood the dramatic movie is a nice complement to Neighbor the documentary. Really liked how Mr. Rogers’ tiny, artificial landscape from the show’s opening credits is expanded to include the whole city of Pittsburgh, plus New York.
I briefly talked to an older dude on the way out of the auditorium about the movie and Mr. Rogers in particular. He has four adopted kids, grown now. He wasn’t all that familiar with the TV show, but he really dug this movie. I imagine Hanks was the bigger draw for him, rather than Hanks-as-Mister-Rogers.