How can you not love a movie about Mr. Rogers? I could wax eloquently on about how great Fred Rogers was as a mere human being and how he became such a hero in my own life. The documentary Please Won’t You Be My Neighbor received a 9 out of 10 from Anthony Ray Bench and goes into great detail about the man himself. Now there’s Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood to add to the Fred Rogers’ tributes. Plus, Tom “freakin’” Hanks is taken on the role of the real-life Fred Rogers.
I love films that take risks and goes for something different and out of the ordinary, but do the risks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood pay off? The film opens as you’d expect with the opening moments for the Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood television show and Tom Hanks showing off the fact that he did his research, took his responsibility as the titular serious, holds onto the “America’s Dad” title with a death grip.
“…a ‘serious’ journalist, who is assigned the ‘Heroes’ piece to Lloyd’s protests. He’s a bitter and unhappy man.”
But the life of Fred Rogers is not the story of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The story is very loosely based the author who profiled Mr. Rogers about American Heroes in Esquire magazine [The actual author’s name was changed from the film]. Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a “serious” journalist, who is assigned the “Heroes” piece to Lloyd’s protests. He’s a bitter and unhappy man. His anger is affecting his job, marriage, and personal life. The source of his wrath is his father, Jerry (Chris Cooper). They are estranged—to say the least—because of Jerry’s alcohol problem.
As you would imagine, Lloyd is skeptical about the “real” Fred Rogers and quite cynical about his true motives. But ultimately, the accuser Lloyd’s problems are confronted not only by everyone in his life but then stacked up against the personality of Fred Rogers himself. Lloyd observes a man who is kind, loves his job, cares more about interacting with people…and children, and finds a way to tear down the wall that Lloyd built up over the years.
"…he magically knew he needed some Mr. Roger’s magic."