A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood could be summed up as a Lifetime movie that is well-written/acted, permeated by the nostalgia of Fred Rogers and his show; it’s a film handled with such precision and care under the guise of director Marielle Heller.
Lloyd Vogel is a cynical investigative journalist who’s tasked with profiling Mr. Rogers, the sweetest man on earth and the only person willing to be interviewed by Vogel. As Vogel skeptically tries to find holes in the “character” of Mr. Rogers, Mr. Rogers does what he does best: gives compassion to an individual in need.
What amazes me about this film is how depressing and heartwarming it can be at the same time. Matthew Rhys, as Lloyd Vogel, is devastatingly good, and so is Chris Cooper who plays his father. Their relationship, when we are introduced to it, is in an unhealthy state, and the reveal as to why that is later in the film is intense. There’s another confrontation at a hospital between Vogel and his wife, played wonderfully by Susan Kelechi Watson, that is also both intense and miserable. Vogel’s character is such a pessimist throughout most of the film, such a stark contrast from Mr. Rogers, that he balances the film out from being too feel-good or joyful. On the other hand, when Mr. Rogers is on the screen, he supplies the film with the necessary warmth to keep it from falling into the Blue Period. When you leave the theater you may be a little shaken up, but A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is ultimately a film that inspires kindness and love, that will make you want to hug somebody afterward, and in an era so polarized and full of hate, that makes this film a beacon in the darkness.
Last year, Rami Malek won an Academy Award for his resurrection of Freddie Mercury, praised for his ability to recreate Mercury’s spirit and every move. And while he may not entirely look the part, who better than Tom Hanks to play the beloved Mr. Rogers? Hanks not only nails down his mannerisms, but also excellently embodies the wholesome soul of Mr. Rogers; he makes it look so effortless (probably because it is). Hanks, although only in a supporting role, is deserving of the same awards-worthy recognition Malek received. I didn’t grow up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but I can just tell Hanks got the performance right.
The score is an uplifting collection of piano tracks, the production design in regard to the recreation of the set of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is terrific, and I like how the film cleverly treats Vogel as if he were a guest on Mr. Rogers’ show… what is there not to love about this film? That it’s a bit simple and predictable? Neighbor please. 9/10