A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

beautiful day in the neighborhood poster 2019 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Clever miniatures visuals, spirit of Fred Rogers

Tried to hard to make the story creative when it didn't add anything to the story

Movie Info

Movie Name: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Studio: Big Beach Films

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  September 7, 2019 (Toronto International Film Festival)/November 22, 2019 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG

beautiful day in the neighborhood fred rogers tom hanks

“Meet my friend Lloyd…he’s all f*#!ed up”

Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is an investigative journalist at Esquire and always seeks the hard answers.  With a wife (Susan Kelechi Watson) and a young child, Lloyd is given an assignment that he doesn’t want.  It is a puff-piece about Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), and it is bringing up bad memories of his own rocky relationship with his father Jerry (Chris Cooper).  As Lloyd tries to see if Rogers is hiding anything or if his “perfect” personality is a ruse, Lloyd discovers he might be the one who finds the truth about himself.

Directed by Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a drama.  The movie loosely adapts story of the relationship between Esquire magazine writer Tom Junod and Fred Rogers which led to the article “Can You Say…Hero?” in Esquire (November 1998).  The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to positive reviews and garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (Hanks).

I (like many if not most of my generation in the US) grew up with Mr. Rogers.  His rosy view of the world was a staple and along with the more “edgy” Sesame Street, childhood was shaped.  This movie tries to take a look at Mr. Rogers as an adult and outsider looking in…and it succeeds despite fighting itself at points.

beautiful day in the neighborhood fred rogers tom hanks jonathan rhys subway

Oh holy hell…I’ve entered some sort of Fred Rogers flashmob!

The movie is stylized with a virtual set of Mr. Rogers’ world often taking form.  The classic “Neighborhood” expands to include New York City and New Jersey as the story unfolds and the film frequently flips to a standard size TV framing as the story enters Fred’s world.  At one point, Rhys’s character finds himself in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe surrounded by life-size versions of the puppet.  Oddly, instead of helping the story, the visuals kind of hinder it.

The film relies too heavily on the nostalgia of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and the shared memories that his viewer has.  While things like singing in the subway feel real and fine, the surreal aspects of the story feel like pandering…and honestly, if I were in the position that Fred Rogers constantly puts Rhys in by not answering questions and treating him like a child, I would probably react with disbelief and a dismissive nature.  I don’t know that it would open me up or just make me angry if a grown man is asking me to talk to Daniel Tiger while not answering legitimate interview questions.

beautiful day in the neighborhood matthew rhys neighborhood of make believe susan kelechi watson

What is Lloyd smoking and where can I get some?

The movie starts out rough as well.  Though his role grows on you, it feels like for the first few minutes of the film that Tom Hanks is doing a parody of Mr. Rogers.  It is like a non-vulgar version of Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood from SNL.  I think the viewer should have been eased into the “Mr. Rogers” character a bit more since Mr. Rogers and Tom Hanks are so iconic.  Matthew Rhys continues to show range, but I (like his character) would almost question if I’m in some bizarre Twilight Zone…Mr. Rogers might be nice, but he is kind of weird in the uber-niceness.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood probably does as good as it can with the material and the legend that is Mr. Rogers.  If it had been an R-Rated drama, it would have an affront to Rogers’ legacy and not in line with who he really appeared to be.  With a person who by all accounts is genuinely “good”, it is hard to make a biting film that necessarily grabs everyone.  A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood pales in comparison to the 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, but it also feels like a companion piece.

Related Links:

The 92nd Academy Award Nominations

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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