The Stream: It’s not the Mister Rogers biopic you may be expecting.
The Big Screen: A clever and off-beat Tom Hanks performance as Mister Rogers.
The Final Bill: Everyone needs a reminder of the limits of humanity and the importance of kindness; and, this movie’s heart is in the right place.-Trip Fontaine
Runtime: 1 hour 49 minutes
Rating: PG (for some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language)
Genre: Biography, Drama
Starring: Tom Hanks (as Fred Rogers), Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper
Director: Marielle Heller
Hello, Neighbors! This weekend we had a nice opportunity to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which has been incorrectly deemed the Mister Rogers biopic. There is a healthy dose of Rogers in this movie, but you’re not just getting a cradle-to-grave story. Marielle Heller has directed this clever and sometimes off-beat movie with the essence of Mister Rogers sprinkled throughout. In short, the plot synopsis is that a cynical journalist is given an assignment to profile Fred Rogers as an American hero, and the encounter with Rogers affects the journalist in unexpected ways.
The film is told like a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episode. The journalist is the central neighbor, who learns a lesson about forgiveness and anger through his assignment. The framing device allows Heller and her cast to boil down the essence of Fred Rogers and his importance to a generation. Matthew Rhys plays the journalist, who is cynically and emotionally closed off from his family. Tom Hanks plays Fred Rogers as genuine, friendly and like a comforting cardigan sweater. The specifics of what the journalist deals with in his family isn’t as important and what he is able to learn from simple conversations from Mister Rogers.
Is this your kind of movie? I wasn’t particularly running to the theater to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, but I am glad I saw it. Either Heller’s direction, which includes fun and sometimes disorienting sequences involving Mister Rogers’ characters, or maybe it’s just a calm and smiling Hanks as Mister Rogers, that lulled me into easy affection for this movie. The production design of the set and the vignettes from scene-to-scene add some whimsy that was a nice departure to some the more serious and adult themes.
Ultimately, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a nice movie with a good moral for all. Like many Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episode, the viewer is edified and comforted into believing that humanity and emotions are manageable. That makes the film itself worthwhile for at least a matinee bowl of popcorn.