It’s important to note that Marielle Heller’s film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, is not a biopic of children’s television host Fred Rogers, for those who go into it with that mindset. Rogers is only a peripheral character in the film and there are chunks of the film where he’s MIA. Even when he’s not around his presence is always felt throughout the proceedings. I guess that’s a testament to star Tom Hanks who does such a wonderful job embodying the Rogers persona that you always feel he’s not far out of range even though an actual accounting of his screen time would tell a different story. This is a performance that will stand with the best of Hanks’ work and may even get some love come Oscar time.
The character, and story, at the center of the film is actually that of Esquire writer, Lloyd Vogel. Vogel is handed what he believes at first to be the thankless assignment of doing a story on Fred Rogers, a task at which he initially scoffs. Vogel has underlying resentment and anger at his father (Chris Cooper) from events that occurred in his childhood and Mr. Rogers picks up on that right away. Out of that initial meeting a relationship develops that literally proves to be life changing for the writer.
Heller does a terrific job with the directing choices and adds some nice touches, especially in recreating the iconic Rogers miniatures from the TV show during transitional scenes. You may wish for a little more Mr. Rogers, but this is still a good film with a timely message. I think Mr. Rogers would approve.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is playing everywhere.
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