Movie Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks delivers a stellar performance as Mister Rogers, the popular children’s television host and America’s most beloved neighbor. Hanks nails the details from the bushy eyebrows and flat silver hair to the red cardigan to the folksy singsong voice. Even the ties that Hanks wears once belonged to Fred Rogers (they were donated by his widow).

The movie was filmed in the same Pittsburgh studio where Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was shot, using some of the same crew and cameras.

For almost two hours, I was transported to a kinder, gentler time: pre-9/1l and one year before the Columbine Massacre. Inspired by a magazine article published in 1998, the film explores the friendship between Fred Rogers and cynical journalist Lloyd Vogel (well played by Matthew Rhys). Note: Lloyd Vogel is a fictionalized version of real-life journalist Tom Junod.

Assigned to write a brief (400-word) profile of an American hero by his hard-nosed editor (Christine Lahti), Vogel chafes at the task but grudgingly agrees to interview Mister Rogers. What should have been a quick, 20-minute interview evolves into an intense relationship between the two men. As Vogel spends more time with Mister Rogers, he starts opening up about his personal and family challenges.

While this film isn’t a Fred Rogers biopic, it does reveal the essence of the entertainer. We learn that he had a temper and dealt with anger by reading scripture, swimming, and pounding on the bass register of the piano. His adult sons gave him plenty of grief during their adolescent years.

When Vogel asks Joanne Rogers (Maryann Plunkett) how it feels to live with a saint, she immediately dispels that notion. But there is an authenticity and genuine interest in the lives of other people, especially those who are broken.

In a recent interview, Director Marielle Heller commented, “There’s a reason that everyone feels so connected to him…Some collective consciousness thing where we all want Mister Rogers in our lives right now, myself included.”

A must-see film!

6 responses to “Movie Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

  1. What a great review. I actually met Mister Rogers and have a photo of him (somewhere!) with my then-toddler daughter!! I was the administrative assistant to a college president and Mister Rogers was the commencement speaker. 🙂 I should blog about this. Thanks for the memories and movie recommendation.

  2. I had never heard of Mr. Rogers till this year when he seems to have popped up quite often in blogs I’ve read. I can imagine why those who grew up with him have such fond memories and the film sounds well worth watching.

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