Hanks perfectly channels Rogers with Rogers' sweet slow in full force.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Director: Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Screenplay: Micah Fitzerman-Blue (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil), Noah Harpster (Maleficent . . .)
Cast: Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump), Matthew Rhys (The Post)
Runtime: 1h 49m
By: John DeSando
“We are trying to give the world positive ways of dealing with their feelings.” Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks)
As Fred Rogers responds to journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) about Fred’s purpose as a children’s host, Fred expresses the conception of the film as a metaphor for the gift of Mr. Rogers. While Lloyd needs to deal with his anger over his dad, Jerry (Chris Cooper), Fred shows him the way in a Zen-like attitude that allows emotion to flow without judgement but not give in to it.
Based on a 1998 story in Esquire, Director Marielle Heller and her writers have crafted in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a close to perfect story for those looking to nurture their emotions rather than batter them. The way Hanks channels Rogers’ physical characteristics and quiet demeanor is almost too good, as if the film could go forward only if Tom could mimic Fred.
The imitation becomes a bit of an artistic crutch, the way that Lloyd uses his anger as a crutch to distance himself from family, friends, and his readers. Then, you will not tire of the nice here because much of the movie is devoted to the journalist. More of Mr. Rogers and less of Lloyd Vogel would have been better.
However, the film sincerely believes in Fred’s healing powers through his complete self-effacement and his identification with any human, child or adult, who needs help with emotions.
Few similarly peaceful heroes are evident today. Self-sacrifice is in short supply, wisdom and charity nowhere to be found. In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, love is in charge in the form of Fred Rogers. As he loves his fellow humans, so too should we. This movie will uplift you to love better than any religious film could ever do.
Lloyd learns much about life from Fred in this brief film, enough to lead a better one. One could only guess how many former young people walk around who were accepted by Mr. Rogers when parents and friends tried to make them something they weren’t.
About solving emotional problems, Fred offers, “There are many things you can do. You can play all the lowest keys on a piano at the same time.”
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com