By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Not many movies have touched me this year quite like “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
which stars Tom hanks
as the beloved TV icon Fred “Mister” Rogers.
I’m not alone.
Some of my most wonderful and cynical colleagues/friends who I watched the movie with described it as uplifting, refreshing, warm-hearted and completely entertaining.
Directed by Marielle Heller
(“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”), “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” received critical acclaim when it premiered this past September at the Toronto International Film Festival.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster.
It’s inspired by the 1998 Esquire Magazine article "Can You Say... Hero?" by Tom Junod who is portrayed in the movie by Matthew Rhys (TV’s “BoJack Horseman”).
For those not familiar with Fred Rogers, he was a writer, musician, puppeteer, minister and creator/producer of the hit television show “Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood” which ran on PBS from 1968 to 2001. That’s a remarkable 33 years. The show was unique, lively and fun and focused on a variety of children’s issues.
Mister Rogers was the everyday nice guy who looked simply great in his trademark zip up sweaters and Khaki pants.
In the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Hanks doesn’t just bear an uncanny resemblance to Rogers or mimic him, but he also amazingly seems to capture the soul and essence of the television legend.
Interestingly, Hanks discovered earlier this month that he and Rogers share the same great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Johannes Mefford. Now, what are the odds of that? So, Hanks performance reaches much deeper than he probably ever imagined.
The movie is so cleverly realized and thankfully doesn’t follow the similar paths of most biopics. It mixes the imagery of Rogers’ TV show with a contemporary setting revolving around Lloyd Vogel (Rhys), a cocky and jaded journalist and his lovely wife Susan Kelechi Watson (TV’s “This is Us”).
Lloyd is shocked when his editor (Christine Lahti, TV’s “Evil”) wants him to write a short feature on Mister Rogers. He tells her he didn’t sign up to do puff pieces. Lloyd’s wife likes the idea of him writing about her childhood hero.
The movie focuses on the effect Mister Rogers has on Lloyd who is dealing with a lot of family issues that he simply can’t let go. The biggest is the hatred he has for his alcoholic and abusive father (Chris Cooper, the upcoming, “Little Women”).
When Mister Rogers begins to ask Lloyd questions, it forces Lloyd to acknowledge some harsh truths about himself and ultimately this seems to make him a more compassionate person. Lloyd has also made a lasting impression on Mister Rogers.
Halfway through “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” I began to love Rhys performance as much as Hanks. Their performances are superb.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is a deeply emotional movie that does more than just capture the nostalgia of Mister Rogers, but also vividly illustrates what he brought and meant to generations of kids.
I’ll tell you, if the film’s subway sing-along scene doesn’t get you choked up a bit and warm your heart, then nothing can.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Watch This Trailer For "A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.