A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was a highly anticipated movie of mine for the last half of 2019. Mister Rogers, for those who don’t know, is a beloved children’s television host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. His show was unlike most children’s programming of the time, having a slower pace and focusing on discussions and conversations with the audience instead of just having entertainment value. Mister Rogers has cemented himself as an American hero and inspiration for so many people and what better person to play him in a movie than Tom Hanks. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is however not a biopic about Mister Rogers, the film follows the journalist, Llyod Vogel, and his family issues and how Mister Rogers helped him through one of the toughest parts of his life. Some people will be disappointed in that Mister Rogers is a supporting character in this film as was I, but that doesn’t change the fact that A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is still a delightful film about kindness and forgiveness.
Easily the best part about A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the heartwarming performance of Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. I feel Hanks was able to capture so much of who Fred Rogers was, without revealing all that much information about him. Hanks played him with a bit of a wall up. As friendly and kind and personable Fred Rogers was with people, it was as if he had walls and boundaries built around himself so that he could protect himself. He was always willing to lend a helping hand, but when it came to himself, it seemed to me he was selective in who he let in. I picked this all up from Hanks’ subtle performance. He truly understood the role he was playing. Tom Hanks was a perfect choice to play Fred.
As I said, the film follows Lloyd Vogel and his strained relationship with his estranged father. Where the story ends and the message and impact it had is worth the ride, that being said the first half of the movie Lloyd Vogel is not a fun character to be around. I understand that’s what a character arc is, but at the beginning of the film, this character is a jerk. It’s hard to latch onto the main character if you don’t like them. As the movie continues, Lloyd grows and learns, and it becomes a much more pleasant experience with him. I think if I was more prepared for this story than what I thought I was getting I would be more accepting as to the journey the film wants to take you on. One thing I did love about this character was his honest opinions on Mister Rogers. At first, Lloyd is frustrated and confused by Fred and thinks he’s just playing a character. He doesn’t understand that someone could just be this kind. I enjoyed watching Fred Rogers work with this guy and watch his change. The friendship built between them was beautiful and endearing.
The final message and heart of the story are at its core what Fred Rogers had taught for so many years. How to positively deal with emotions. The story concluded with Lloyd and his dad was touching and I’m sure will move many people. Whenever Tom Hanks was on screen I had a big smile from ear to ear. When he wasn’t on screen, I missed his presence. The best scene in the film is a conversation Lloyd and Fred have on a couch where Lloyd tries to get Fred to react to his tough questions. Fred Rogers doesn’t take the bait and just quietly gives an honest answer. I have to applaud Marielle Heller for her excellent direction. She makes use of quiet moments and turns them into powerful scenes. I am loving the work she is putting out and can not wait to see what she does next.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not the biopic of Mister Rogers a lot of us thought it was going to be, and that is disappointing, but the film we got still carried an impact and taught a message that is true to Fred Rogers. We could all be a little kinder in our own lives. This is a pure family-friendly film with an impactful message. Tom Hanks is wonderful as Fred Rogers and I can not praise him enough. It is a little hard latching onto our lead character at first, but he does start to grow you as the film progresses and the film does slow down whenever Tom Hanks is not on screen. There is an excellent documentary on Fred Rogers called Won’t You Be My Neighbor which is one of the best docs in years. It is a great companion piece to this film and I highly recommend you watch it before this movie. It dives deep into Fred Rogers’s life and who he was, it will deepen your viewing experience for this movie. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood? is not a film you need to see in theaters but is one worth watching for those who want to see a heartwarming movie with a beautiful message.