A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD (PG)
D: Marielle Heller
Sony/TriStar/Tencent/Big Beach (Youree Henley, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub & Leah Holzer)
US 🇺🇸 2019
W: Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster [based on the article "Can You Say... Hero?" by Tom Junod]
DP: Jody Lee Lipes
Ed: Anne McCabe
Mus: Nate Heller
Matthew Rhys (Lloyd Vogel), Tom Hanks (Fred Rogers), Susan Kelechi Watson (Andrea Vogel), Chris Cooper (Jerry Vogel), Maryann Plunkett (Joanne Rogers)
The children's television host Mr Rogers isn't as well known in the UK as he is in the USA, but his long running show has seen him become a symbol of innocence as wholesome as apple pie. The subject of a recent documentary (Won't You Be My Neighbour?), as well as a magazine article that inspired this film has seen him earn some publicity on this side of the ocean, but for all intents and purposes his celebrity status is exclusive to America.
In this biopic of sorts, a cynical journalist, whose usual output is character-assassinating exposés, is tasked to write what he considers a fluff piece on the entertainer. Going through personal issues himself, he digs deep to try to find some dirt on his subject, who he considers a duplicitous character, but he only finds that Fred Rogers really is a positive, well-natured human being.
Whilst the film does give that warm and fuzzy feeling and presses home the message that talking about your feelings is good for your mental health, it could also have been used to point out that some journalists try to be bigger than the story when writing their articles, simply because they feel the need to transpose their own bias into their writing. Personally, I thought this could have been a good subplot.
It's a fine film, quite interestingly visualised, with a pleasant screenplay and a fantastic performance from Tom Hanks where he literally steps into the shoes of Mr Rogers.