A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a truly “beautiful” film. Love, pain, a family working through their issues–it’s got it all. The film is centered around the beloved children’s show host Mister Rogers and a reporter assigned to write an article about why he is a hero. Director Marielle Heller managers to make the movie as feel-good as an episode of “Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood”, yet somehow not cheesy. (CPG 5/5)
Review by Carlotta Plys-Garzotto
“Fred Rogers” (Tom Hanks), opens the film recreating the classic “Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood” introduction. The entire movie then follows the form of an episode, weaving in and out of puppets, flashbacks, and dream-like sequences. The playful yet heartfelt journey the film takes you on captures the true spirit of Mister Rogers.
The film is based on a real Esquire article called “Can You Say Hero?” written about Mister Rogers in 1998. In the film, “Lloyd Vogel” (Matthew Rhys) is the cynical, emotionally damaged journalist assigned to write the piece on Mister Rogers. When Lloyd Vogel’s wife reads the article in the movie, she comments, “well, it’s not really about Mister Rogers…well, it is, but it’s not…it’s so you”. This is a great explanation for the movie itself–you don’t learn a lot a whole lot about Fred Rogers himself. It’s more about what he did and how he affected people, using Lloyd Vogel as the example.
By the way, you don’t need to have ever seen “Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood” to enjoy the film–I never had. After watching the movie I was actually inspired to go watch it, though. The way the movie recreates “Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood” is so exact that it’s nostalgic without even having grown up watching it. Scene changes were done with little wooden trains and planes with an old-tv-kind-of filter. It’s adorable, and fits perfectly with the movie. The costumes and cars are also very well done and not overstated, placing you right in the time period without thinking about it. I loved the music, and hearing Tom Hanks sing, so I had to download the soundtrack immediately after.
This movie has real emotion; you really will leave the theater with a full heart and intention to be a good person. It is very inspiring in that way, and although pretty predictable that didn’t bother me at all. The actors do a great job of not over acting and the writing is not overdone, it all feels very realistic. Tom Hanks also makes a great Mister Rogers, and I love how they didn’t try to give him prosthetics or weird CGI to look identical to the real Mister Rogers. Rather, they just use the clothes and hair and let his energy come through.
For the entire hour and forty-eight minutes of the film, I was completely engaged. I was actually sad when it ended, it was such a delightful movie. I really could not recommend A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood more, especially for the holiday season to get in that gushy spirit.
© Carlotta Plys-Garzotto FF2 Media (11/30/2019)
Does A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
No, the film is completely centered around men.
Commentary by Review Coach Giorgi Plys-Garzotto
Carly and I went to see this movie shortly before Thanksgiving, which I doubt was an accident–the film was released just in time to remind people to be a little more forgiving during the holiday season. In Mr. Rogers’s world, and sometimes in our own, every conflict can be solved with a little listening and understanding. However, the thematic hole I happened to notice was that the father happens to come into the film completely ready to make amends. The story doesn’t seem to have an answer for what one should do when the other person isn’t changing their behavior. The assumption that people always have good intentions is one that I personally try to follow most of the time, but the political climate in our country is one of the most obvious examples I can think of re: people acting in bad faith.
Since the Republican Party is a very special case, that’s not to say that Mr. Rogers’s approach doesn’t work most of the time, especially when it comes to issues between friends, roommates, and the like. I’m actually interested to know what Mr. Rogers himself would say on this subject, since an era where Nazism is on the rise and the consumerism Mr. Rogers fought against is more carnivorous than ever is certainly one that needs his wisdom. I like to think of Mr. Rogers out protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, marching with Black Lives Matter, or adding his own “I believe her” to the other voices supporting the #MeToo victims. If you think I’m being fanciful, know that Mr. Rogers broke ground on racial representation in television by portraying an integrated swimming pool in 1969, when just a few years earlier a white motel owner had thrown acid into his pool to keep black guests from swimming there.
Director Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood tells the story of a tortured journalist (Matthew Rhys) whose time with television personality Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) brings much-needed healing. Based on the true story, co-writers Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster construct a heartwarming narrative on the power of Rogers’ simple, poignant messages. Tom Hanks embodies the essence – and goodness – of a television legend in a supporting role with less screen time than the film’s marketing and press tour would lead you to believe. But in the time he is present, which make up the film’s best scenes, he miraculously recreates Fred Rogers’ jujutsu of turning an interviewers’ questions back to them. After playing many real-life heroes in Sully, Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, to name a few, this comes as no surprise. He is also a perfect foil to Rhys, who has to use his own likability as an actor to make up for playing a smug reporter with daddy issues. The dynamic between the two men works on screen, just as it did off screen for an Esquire article two decades ago. Beautiful, indeed. (BKP: 4/5)