The Mister Rogers remembrance tour continues this holiday season with the touching and heartfelt “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”.
Last year, audiences were treated to a documentary about Mister Rogers called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” that told the wonderful story about a Pittsburgh minister whose goodness graced television screens for more than 30 years on the TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”. This year, Hollywood has made an actual movie about Fred Rogers called “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring beloved actor Tom Hanks in the lead role.
But “Beautiful Day” is not a standard biopic or look back at Rogers’ fascinating life. Instead, it tells the story about a different person entirely, and how Rogers’ good nature and life lessons warmed that person’s heart. The warmth and sentiment of Mister Rogers breathes life into every scene in “Beautiful Day”. It’s an emotionally fulfilling movie.
“Beautiful Day” tells the story of journalist Lloyd Vogel, a man with anger management issues and a thorny reputation. He is assigned a puff piece on children’s TV star Fred Rogers, and Vogel assumes there will be some skeletons in Rogers’ closet that he can sniff out for a juicy story. Instead, Vogel discovers that Mister Rogers is the real deal, that his friendliness and love are just as strong in real life as they are on television.
And through his budding friendship with Rogers, Vogel is changed for the better, especially where it concerns his strained relationships with his family.
Just like Vogel discovers about Mister Rogers, the warmth of “Beautiful Day” is the real deal. I had a smile plastered on my face every time Tom Hanks, as Rogers, filled the screen and so effortlessly delivered his wisdom. Hanks inhabits the role very well, though it’s still plain to recognize Tom Hanks, so there might be a slight disconnect.
But Rogers’ lessons are no less powerful when spoken aloud by Tom Hanks. It’s fun to watch Hanks change Vogel, to the point that I wish the film had even more of their scenes together. Actor Matthew Rhys is just as phenomenal as Vogel. You can feel the change growing within him, and how it affects him. This film is a lesson about life, and the audience can feel it just as strongly as the characters.
Vogel is based on real life journalist Tom Junod, who really was assigned a puff piece about Mister Rogers for Esquire magazine and he penned a powerful cover story. The article is available online, and I highly recommend giving it a read.
Both the article and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” paint a picture of a man worthy of the love he gave us.
For a podcast review of the movie, along with other reviews, check out Sentinel Cinema at www.RomeSentinel.com/SentinelCinema.