“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is not a biopic but is based on the true story of Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) and Tom Junod (Matthew Rhys), named Lloyd Vogel in the movie. It follows Vogel, an investigative journalist, when he gets an assignment from his editor to profile Rogers. Some parts of the movie are based on scenes depicted in anecdotes from Junod’s actual article about Rogers, “Can You Say…Hero?”
It starts off with Mister Rogers taking off his coat to his theme song “It’s A Beautiful Day in this Neighborhood” and narrating Vogel’s story with a picture board The movie switches back and forth from ‘80s colors to regular movie styles and structures the movie like an episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
The movie successfully set the scene by building miniatures of Pittsburgh and using imitation shots of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” in transitions. For example, instead of a boring plane montage, they have a miniature plane lifting off and landing with sound effects when Vogel goes from New York to Pittsburgh. Another example is when Vogel commutes to work in a cab and the scene cuts to a miniature bridge with toy cars driving on it. The extra effort of building new miniatures really brings the Mister Rogers aesthetic to the movie, and it is very well done.
Speaking of well done, Hanks is amazing in his portrayal of Mister Rogers. He doesn’t do a full-on impression, but he still retains the sing songy voice and slow speaking of the original Rogers who passed away in 2003. It’s a bit jarring at first to see Hanks try to embody tall and lean Rogers, but he quickly sinks into the role as if it is meant for him to play. His Daniel Tiger impression, however, is pretty close to the real thing.
The movie focuses on Vogel and makes the moviegoer try to piece together parts of why Vogel is such a broken man and traumatized by something to do with his father, until making the pieces fall together with one last clue.
It goes through how Vogel wanted to know more about Mister Rogers, but he ended up knowing more about himself and learned how to forgive. It’s not aimed at little kids with its dark and moving backstory for Vogel, but this kind of movie is needed, especially in the world we live in today: one filled with hate and everything that Mister Rogers worked so hard to try to forgive. Now, children are growing up earlier than ever with new exposure to information and the outside world with the internet, and that brings all of the hateful messages people put on social media every day.
One of the most powerful moments in the film is when Mister Rogers speaks to Vogel in a restaurant, and he asks Vogel to do Mister Rogers’ classic one minute of silence to think about all of the people that loved to make you, and the whole restaurant participates. The camera pans across the restaurant and then cuts to Hanks’ face as he breaks the fourth wall and stares at the audience, inviting them to participate.
Mister Rogers throughout the film is regarded as inspirational and a person to be reckoned through his dialogue, but also stresses how he was not a perfect man: that he needed to practice being kind and how to control his emotions. It shows heartwarming scenes that showed how much he meant to kids, including one where the whole subway car sings the intro to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
That doesn’t stop the movie from poking fun at Mister Rogers, however. There were a couple of hilarious moments when Vogel tries to interview Mister Rogers and he answers in his iconic slow and indirect way. Just watching Vogel’s exasperated face as Mister Rogers pulls out Daniel and tries to get Vogel to talk to him when answering a question is priceless.
This movie is beautifully shot and is a great and moving story about how a broken journalist developed a friendship with Mister Rogers. Undoubtedly, this is another great performance by Hanks in a story not entirely about Mister Rogers, but the power of friendship, compassion, love and forgiveness that we should all take into our lives.
If you’ve seen the movie, what did you think about it? Let us know in the comments below.