A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood review
Though I'm not a parent myself, I do fear about how I'm going to bring up children. We have to accept that no one is perfect and we simply have to do the best we can. Still, that does make me thing about how I was raised as I think about the triumphs and mistakes my own parents have done. They are role models and I try to consider the other role models I've grown up with. One such man is Fred Rogers, the lovable host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. He's the prime example of a saint, someone who's dedicated his life to helping children and how he approached it differently.
It was only recently we had gotten a wonderful documentary on Rogers in Won't You be my Neighbor. While that movie was a biography that dwelled into his personality and philosophy, today's movie tells a story about a man who comes to understand that Fred Rogers is a guy who's just as nice as he was on TV. It's understandable that one might be questionable about him, especially in an age where a lot of misinformation is spread and people are simply not as trusting. This story shine through in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
In the late 90's, a reporter Lloyd Vogel (played by Matthew Rhys) has won awards, but has also gained a reputation for trying to expose his subjects, and is finding it harder to get assignments at Esquire. At the same time, he and his wife Andrea (played by Susan Kelechi Watson) have just had their first child born. The prospect of having become a father has frightened him as his relationship with his own father Jerry (played by Chris Cooper) is very dysfunctional. When Jerry ends up saying some things to Lloyd, the two end up in a fight at a family's wedding.
Lloyd is assigned to interview Fred Rogers for an article on American heroes. Though reluctant to take on a children's television host, he gets a phone call from him personally and travels to Pittsburgh. It's there where he goes to the set of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood where he meets Rogers (played by Tom Hanks) who shockingly comes off as nice as he is on TV. Lloyd is determined to dive into Rogers' personality but starts to understand that perhaps the man's kindness starts to make himself reflect on his relationship with everyone.
It's already hard to hate or even dislike a guy like Mister Rogers. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood not only shows that Fred Rogers was just as human as anyone else, but just how he emphasized the importance of being patient and trusting. In order for this film to work, they needed a great actor for Rogers and Tom Hanks proves himself again a great actor. I was afraid that I was only going to see Tom Hanks, but I'll admit there were plenty of points where I got lost in his portrayal.
Rogers also happens to only be a supporting character. The story is really about Matthew Rhys as a cynical writer who changes for the better. He not only represents the soul whose closed off nature has made him a bad writer, but of modern society who has become more paranoid about people in general. His journey is not an easy one, and can be tough when confronted about his child and his father. The movie even has a trippy sequence where his insecurities are on display in front of Rogers'. But within the bigger picture, it's still a story about how far kindness can get you without becoming a victim to naivety.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not just an impressive story, but it's even shot in an impressive way. There are a couple of moments where I felt like I was back to my childhood. Some of it is when it tries to recreate the show through its obvious video photography and even screen ratio size, and some it comes through the structure of the script which evolves in a gentile manner. It's like the movie really wanted to be a slightly darker and longer episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
I'll give this five red trolley models out of five. This is a movie I recommend for the family, even above Frozen 2 (which I'm sure most have seen already). I even recommend it for adults on their own. If anything, this may have been Tom Hanks most challenging role in a while. Its worth it alone to see him play such a kind figure. It certainly is a beautiful day in the neighborhood, so please got out and see this.