Based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Lloyd Vogel.
Fred Rogers isn’t a name that will be familiar to many of us on this side of the Atlantic, but to millions of Americans the children’s TV host is a national treasure – he’s the kind of man who’d been on TV screens for so long that he was as beloved with parents as he was with the children who watched his shows. Tom Hanks stars as Fred Rogers and his casting is as obvious as it is inspired – who else would you get to play the nicest man in America than the nicest man in Hollywood?
‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ is directed by Marielle Heller and she makes the interesting choice to make Rogers a supporting player in his own biopic, with the film’s primary focus lying with Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a journalist given an assignment to interview Rogers for Esquire magazine as part of a series on American heroes. Vogel is an investigative journalist so he’s surprised to be given this assignment and he initially sets out to try and find out who the man behind Mr. Rogers really is, suspecting he can’t be as nice as he seems, only to discover that he actually is as nice in real life as his TV persona.
Rogers is a man capable of finding the good in everyone and he senses early on that Vogel may need a bit of help and the tables start to turn until it essentially turns into Rogers interviewing Vogel instead of the other way around. Through their conversations, Rogers helps Vogel to reconnect with his father (Chris Cooper) and rediscover the things that matter most in his life and it’s quite moving to see this all play out. The film’s message around how we would all benefit from a little more kindness and understanding is delivered well, and the performances from Hanks, Rhys and Cooper are very strong, so there’s a lot to like about ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’,
Despite this, it’s a film I admired more than I enjoyed, and I felt it was understated almost to a fault. I can’t quite put my finger on why I wasn’t as taken with ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ as others have been and I’m coming up short – this could be a perfect example of ‘it’s me, not you’, in cinematic terms at least!
Directed By: Marielle Heller
Starring: Matthew Rhys, Tom Hanks, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper, Maryann Plunkett and Enrico Colantoni