Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is an investigative journalist who receives an assignment to profile Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), aka Mr. Rogers. He approaches the interview with skepticism, as he finds it hard to believe that anyone can have such a good nature. But Roger’s empathy, kindness and decency soon chips away at Vogel’s jaded outlook on life, forcing the reporter to reconcile with his own painful past.
The opening frames of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood set up the rest of the film perfectly. Director Marielle Heller wants to welcome you into this beautifully touching and emotionally strong story and the opening of the film being a recreation of the opening to the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was an incredibly sweet and joyful way to kick things off.
Out of all the movies that I have seen recently, this is one of the most wholesome overall. It’s not just because of the sweet and often heartfelt screenplay by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, but it is also because of the film’s overall message. Love is an extremely powerful thing and so is forgiveness, and this film says so many important things and says them in a powerful way.
But perhaps my favorite aspect to A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the legendary Tom Hanks himself, who portrays beloved television icon Fred Rogers. Whenever he is on screen, he radiates such a strong sense of love, warmth, and kindness. Hanks is the perfect choice to play such an amazing man, as he is widely known as one of the, if not the, nicest celebrity out there. He did a truly fantastic job portraying Rogers and his performance uplifted me greatly.
He works so well off of the other actors as well, namely the film’s lead actor Matthew Rhys. At the center of the film is a story of these two men, and how Rogers is able to give people a better outlook on life. The film’s lead protagonist, Lloyd, is not one that is easy to root for at first. We see him treating people, particularly his family, rather rudely.
This is an issue that I had with the 2017 horror feature Happy Death Day upon my initial viewing. Jessica Rothe portrayed a character, Tree Gelbman, that was so rude to everyone that it was hard to feel for her for a while. But as the story progressed and we see where her character ends up by the end of the film, and the emotional journey that she goes on throughout the film, you end up rooting for her one-hundred percent by the end. The same can be said about Rhys’ Lloyd Vogel. At first, I thought he was an extremely unlikable character, but after I saw where the film was taking him, I ended up feeling immense sympathy for him and wanted him to be happy.
This movie also utilizes some remarkably clever cinematography by Jody Lee Lipes, making a lot of the scenery look like toys. For example, we may get an overhead shot of a city that it made of sculptures and the cars that pass by on the streets are toy cars, giving it the feeling of the opening of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It is a gorgeously shot film and its camera work was terrific.
There are some times in which the film’s story can feel a bit familiar and often falls into a lot of the tropes that come with these types of stories, but it was still enjoyable and emotionally powerful nonetheless. It just would have been nice to have had some more originality injected into the way the film played out, as it can often become predictable at times.
But this is a film that is so uplifting and wholesome that it really is quite difficult to dislike and I wholeheartedly believe that there is going to be something for everybody in this impressively crafted picture.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is an incredibly impressive and uplifting film with a touching message and a heartwarming performance from Tom Hanks.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: PG for some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language
Cast: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper
Directed by: Marielle Heller
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Release Date: November 22, 2019 (United States)
Running Time: 109 minutes