An affirmation of values of love and compassion, this sentimental film banks on Tom Hanks’ genial performance as the famous Fred Rogers.
Dir. Marielle Heller
2019 | USA | Drama | 109 mins | 1.85:1 | English
PG (passed clean) for some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language
Cast: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper
Plot: After a jaded magazine writer is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about empathy, kindness, and decency from America’s most beloved neighbor.
Awards: Nom. for Best Supporting Actor (Oscars); Official Selection (Toronto)
Subject Matter: Light/Family
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: The Projector
Marielle Heller’s third feature after The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) and Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) is a gentle if sentimental movie featuring Fred Rogers, the famous American television personality whose long-running series, ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’, became a huge hit with parents and their preschool kids over many decades.
But truth be told, Heller’s film is not really about him per se, in the sense that it is not his biopic; rather, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a deceptively straightforward film about a journalist’s life-changing encounter with Mr. Rogers.
Tom Hanks is outstanding as Fred, embodying his little quirks and careful way of speaking, and whose genial performance very much captures the spirit of his character’s legacy and the tone of the film.
“I hope you know that you made today a very special day by just your being you. There’s no one in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”
Matthew Rhys is not bad as Lloyd Vogel, the journalist in question who has been assigned to cover Rogers, but Chris Cooper, who plays Lloyd’s estranged father, is even better in a minor but critical supporting role.
An affirmation of values of love and compassion, Beautiful Day is a film for everyone to see, particularly families and moviegoers in need of some tonic for the soul. Heller’s work is not particularly great in any objective sense, but its emotions may resonate powerfully with some viewers.
It is also a rather strange mainstream-type film with the use of miniature sets to capture a childlike perspective as well as a surreal sequence involving Lloyd and Fred on a television set.
Ultimately, this is a feel-good movie and a reminder that cinema need not always be bleak and depressing in order to make serious points about our complicated world.