A Beautiful Story About Everyone’s Favorite Neighbor
Being the Mr. Rogers fan I am, I was intrigued when I heard about A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, until I learned it wasn’t a biography movie of Fred Rogers. Still, I heard enough good things about it that I had to see it eventually, and I’m really glad I did.
The movie is really the story of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a journalist who is assigned a quick article about Fred Rogers. It’s just supposed to be 400 words, part of a larger story about American heroes. Lloyd is generally known for digging up dirt on anyone he profiles, so it is a bit of a surprise when Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) agrees to meet with him. The interview doesn’t go quite as Lloyd envisioned and Mr. Rogers spends more time asking about Lloyd than Lloyd does asking about Mr. Rogers.
However, that one interview leads to more encounters and Mr. Rogers keeps reaching out to him. And the timing couldn’t be better as Lloyd’s estranged father (Chris Cooper) is trying to come back into his life, causing issues with Lloyd’s relationship with his sister (Tammy Blanchard) and wife (Susan Kelechi Watson). How will his relationships be changed by everything?
This is one of those movies inspired by true events. I do know the writer who was the inspiration for the movie had a different name, and some of the events early in the movie didn’t happen. So who knows how much of this is real vs. fictional. As a result, I’m taking the “true events” part with several grains of salt.
Having said that, the story presented here is very good. Emotionally, it satisfies without feeling manipulative or maudlin, which it easily could have been. The beginning was a little rough, and I wasn’t sure about it, but as the movie went along, I got more into the story.
The one thing the movie gets perfect for me is Mr. Rogers. As much as it sounds like they dramatized parts of the story, I can easily picture him behaving the way he did in this movie. He is kind and compassionate and wanting to help. That sounds like Mr. Rogers, right? I love that picture of him.
Plus it was fun to see quasi-behind the scenes of the show. I really enjoyed those scenes, including some scenes in the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Let’s admit it, we always watched the show for those segments, right? There are other nods to the show that made me smile.
The acting was uniformly good. I’ll admit I had a hard time looking past Tom Hanks to see Mr. Rogers, but that’s probably more me than his acting as there was nothing wrong with his performance. Everyone else helped keep the tone of the movie perfect and pull us into the film.
In the end, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a loving tribute to a man those of us who grew up with him still look up to. And that makes me very glad I watched it.