A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
Jacob Richardson | 24/01/2019
A remarkable oddity of a biopic, whose somewhat despondent undercurrent is ultimately swallowed whole by the irrepressible optimism of Tom Hanks’ Mr. Rogers.
Directed by Marielle Heller, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood follows journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), whose investigative pieces and nose for story at Esquire magazine have made it difficult for his editor to find him a willing interview subject; too terrified they are that he will dig up some dirt on them. That is until the Heroes edition of the magazine, where Vogel is tasked with interviewing beloved children’s television host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). While his initial plan is to get it over and done with as soon as possible, what forms is a bond between the two men that allows Vogel to come to grips with his estranged father’s (Chris Cooper) impending death, and his new son with his wife (Susan Kelechi Watson).
A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood banks on one ineffable quality - goodness. In doing so, it takes a huge risk, but ultimately succeeds in delivering a feel good, never shy away from the hard truths tale that may have you in tears, but will leave you uplifted.
As Lloyd Vogel, Rhys brings a particularly notable despondency to the role. Overtures of alcoholism, abandonment and abuse run through his relationship with his father, and his tainted worldview seems pessimistic at the least, nihilistic at its worst. He feels almost like a true piece of the New York scenery, a man beaten down into a retaliatory husk of his former self by life.
Then we meet Hanks’ Fred Rogers. Inimitably and perfectly cast, Hanks embodies the kindness and gentleness of this character so utterly and thoroughly it is impossible to think of anyone else being able to do this character justice. The mannerisms and intonation are all there, and director Marielle Heller makes sure to bring them to the forefront wherever possible; whether it is extended scenes recreating television segments, or one brilliant moment of silence where Hanks turns his attention straight down the camera’s lens.
The duo feed off each other so well, it is impossible not to get swept up in Lloyd’s transition from grouchy no-hoper to grouchy good husband and dad. The supporting cast also uniformly performs, in particular Chris Cooper’s father figure who brings an element of danger to the piece.
Overall, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is probably a bit too weird (see Lloyd’s tiredness induced trip), and a bit too nice (read: predictable), to be an unmissable classic. But that ‘nice’ feeling that the film perpetuates doesn’t leave you when you get up out of your seat. It stays with you for hours, if not days, afterwards. And the staying power of that emotionality, coupled with Hanks’ impeccable casting, make this worth your time.
A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is fundamentally odd, and undeniably too nice for its own good, but Hanks makes an incredible Mr Rogers, and the movie will buoy your heart.