PG — 108 minutes — Drama
Release Date: Nov. 22, 2019
Directed by: Marielle Heller
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” first hits you with nostalgia when Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) walks into his home and begins singing the famous theme song to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”, transporting us back into our childhoods when his soothing voice would teach us important life lessons. We see Tom Hanks wonderfully embody the role of Mr. Rogers as he speaks to the audience and introduces us to Lloyd (Matthew Rhys) whose life is melancholic, mundane, and isn’t filled with any real joy or happiness.
Rather than following Mr. Rogers’ story as he works on set, we are set on a journey following Lloyd as he struggles to write a profile on Mr. Rogers whose calming, content personality clashes with Lloyds grumpy attitude. This is what took me by surprise. I assumed this film would focus on Mr. Rogers, but instead, we follow Lloyd as he gets to know Mr. Rogers and takes his lessons into account for his own life in order to improve both himself and the relationships he has with others.
In fact, this is based on an actual feature journalist Tom Junod wrote about Fred Rogers, something I didn’t know about until the end of the film.
Tom Hanks Shined as Mr. Rogers
I’ll admit, I was skeptical when Tom Hanks was cast as Mr. Rogers, solely because of the fact that they don’t look similar, but that didn’t stop Hanks from embodying the raw goodness and loveliness that Mr. Rogers radiates. From his mannerisms to the tone of this voice, Hanks effortlessly won me over and made me cry while watching this movie because his rendition of Mr. Rogers was so sweet and the innocence that flows from him is impossible to not love.
While I did enjoy Hanks’ rendition of Mr. Rogers, I wish we saw more of Mr. Rogers. Most of this movie followed Lloyd’s story which is the classic Angry/Sad-Man-Learns-How-To-Love-And-Forgive-Thanks-To-Someone-Teaching-Him-A-Life-Lesson. We did get some heartfelt moments with Mr. Rogers as he interacts with Lloyd, but we never explored his story besides learning the bare minimum about his life.
For example, it was brought up that Mr. Rogers feels burdened because everyone around the world assumes he is either a saint or has his life together, therefore everyone dumps their emotional issues onto him which weighs him down, after a while. This was something I never even considered and really opened my eyes to another side of Mr. Rogers. We also learn that Mr. Rogers’ son is embarrassed of his father and doesn’t mention him to anyone. These are some hard-hitting revelations about this seemingly perfect man, but those issues are never explored further which does a disservice to Mr. Rogers and kept his character somewhat flat in this adaptation.
Rather than exploring Lloyd’s classic tale of a man learning how to be kind to those around him in a Scrooge-esque storyline, I wish we explored Mr. Rogers’ life a little more in order to delve deeper into the problems he faces which would make him seem more relatable and not unattainable, to me.
The Smaller Details of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” that I Enjoyed
This film paid homage to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” by showcasing the classic miniature neighborhood to show movement between locations throughout the movie, which was an innovative touch to move from scene to scene and brought forth some nostalgia in me.
My absolute favorite part of this film was when Mr. Rogers asked Lloyd to think about the people that loved him into being. This was a thing Mr. Rogers actually said to others, among other quotes that he said which were inserted into this film. And, that moment was the most powerful scene of the film, for me. I was crying my eyes out during it because the simplicity of the scene juxtapositioned against the gravity of that request was the perfect way to showcase how powerful Mr. Rogers is at making connections.
Although this film centers around Lloyd more than it does Mr. Rogers, which was the film’s biggest shortcoming, this is still a beautifully made film that focuses around the beauty of humanity, the importance of love and acceptance, and is full of nostalgia for Mister Rogers’ fans. It’s a classic, heartwarming movie that will leave you smiling and will give you faith in humanity.
ALSO TRY: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (2018) is a wonderful documentary exploring Mr. Rogers’ impact worldwide while also showcasing the inner workings of the infamous show. If one is very much interested in Fred Rogers’ story, this is a must-watch.