‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ review
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
When I was young in the 1990s, I used to turn on the TV after school and watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In the show, Mr. Rogers explains life lessons in a calm way. He would also address the major events that were happening in the world, offering an understandable explanation of big issues for kids. The show is like getting therapized by a trusted friend. Last year, the documentary on Fred Rogers—Won’t You Be My Neighbor?—explains the beloved host’s life, the development of his show, and includes many interviews from friends, family, and himself. Now, the biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood tells the true story of Rogers’ influence on journalist Tom Junod.
The start of the film is an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, with the opening of the show being played and Fred (Tom Hanks) putting on his sweater. When he shows a frame filled with pictures of familiar characters in the show, he shows a picture of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) after he got punched in the face because of the dispute he had with his father, Jerry (Chris Cooper), at his sister’s wedding. The scene confuses the audience, making us wonder if this is reality or a dream. The film transitions from the neighborhood to New York City—showing us how Vogel ended up in his current situation.
Lloyd and his wife of eight years, Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson), are going through the early stages of parenthood. The next day, the journalist and new father gets an assignment to do a story on Rogers for Esquire’s heroes issue. As Vogel interviews Fred, Fred interviews the journalist back, asking about what Lloyd is going through. The film goes back and forth between reality and the show so much so that the films feels like a parody of the iconic children’s show—except it is not trying to make fun. Also, the movie has a nostalgic look, especially noticeable during the transitions. For example, there is a miniature version of the neighborhood, and other places Mr. Rogers goes to.
When Rogers films the show, he takes his time when interviewing people—even though they have a tight schedule, to ensure quality. He also attempts to do activities that should be impossible at his age, and puts those silly antics in the show. Even though his fame is huge and he is seen champion for children and kindness, Rogers does not think of himself as a hero.
When Rogers interviews Lloyd, he speaks to him as if he were talking to his viewers. Hanks’ portrayal of Rogers has Winnie the Pooh’s sweet charm—and is definitely less clumsy. To prepare for the film, Hanks went to museums about Fred Rogers, watched a lot of episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, watched archival interviews, and even watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor (which is a great documentary you should see).
While Hanks and Christian Bale (for Ford v Ferrari) could get Best Actor in the Academy Awards next year, they are going to have to battle Joaquin Phoenix for his portrayal of the Joker in Joker. When you see someone having a tough day due to personal problems, talk to them and give them a bit of kindness. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is like watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for adults—it is a meaningful and nostalgic visit to our childhoods.