Title – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
Director – Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Cast – Matthew Rhys, Tom Hanks, Chris Cooper, Susan Kelechi Watson
Plot – Cynical journalist and magazine writer Lloyd Vogel (Rhys) is tasked on doing a piece on American TV icon Fred Rogers (Hanks), setting him on a path of self-discovery and desire to unearth if Mr. Rogers is indeed the kind-hearted soul he is portrayed as being.
“Anything mentionable is manageable”
Review by Eddie on 21/02/2020
The wonderful 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbour? covered the life of American TV icon and genuine real-life hero Fred Rogers in magnificent fashion, as we were thrown into Roger’s world filled with a care and spirit for the human condition that seemed in some ways too good to be true.
Reigniting interest in one of the most recognisable American’s of all-time (at least for those within the USA), there was much joy when we all found out that the “nicest man in Hollywood” Tom Hanks would be donning the red sweater and blue sneakers and bringing Rogers too life in a feature film format.
While those seeking a warts and all biopic of Rogers will be left disappointed by Marielle Heller’s feature, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is another great reminder of the power of Roger’s work, as Hanks alongside he capable co-lead Matthew Rhys tell us a story of redemption and forgiveness, as Rhys’s hard-edged journalist Lloyd Vogel begins to face a life affirming revelation in the light of his companionship with Rogers.
It’s the type of wholesome and smile inducing story the world needs more of today, with Heller keeping things mostly on track throughout, even though a few instances, scenarios and sequences veer a little too far into the Hallmark Channel mould of movie-making, as she and her leading men ensure that Rogers insistence on helping Vogel come to terms with past grievances is a story we will all be able to relate to and one that will connect on some level emotionally to many that fall under its charms.
The charms of Heller’s film are not afraid to get slightly off-kilter to, as we enter unique moments with Vogel’s dreamlike state taking him inside the Rogers TV program and Heller nicely recreating sets from the show to show off transition scenes in her tale, all proving that this is a loving tribute to a man and a program that changed the lives of many.
Importantly for the film also, Hanks (in his first Oscar nominated role since Cast Away) is quite literally the perfect man to walk in Rogers shoes and does a great job of inhabiting the well-known persona, while Rhys, whose struggled for good roles outside of cult TV show The American’s, finally gets a movie role that showcases his strong acting chops and while Vogel isn’t the most instantly likeable of creatures, Rhys makes him just the right balance of frustrating and human, meaning that while this soul-searching narrative is by no means breaking new ground, it makes for always watchable and often very moving viewing.
Final Say –
Walking a well-trodden line of family drama storytelling, this based on a true story journey makes for extremely enjoyable viewing as the very essence of Roger’s being is brought to life by a director and her cast who all work together to create a lovely reminder of the good in us all.
3 ½ uncooperative tents out of 5