Friday, November 22, 2019
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Even though the film opens with a scene in which Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) changes his shoes and puts on his signature red sweater, while amiably singing and talking to the television camera, Fred isn't the film's protagonist. Fred comes to the story to help another man named Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a fictional version of the writer Tom Junod, who has many issues including his anger toward his estranged father (Chris Cooper).
Lloyd is an award-winning writer for the magazine Esquire. He is given an assignment to write a profile of Fred Rogers, who makes the popular children's program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Despite the fact that he and his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) are raising an infant child, Lloyd isn't too excited about interviewing a TV host who talks to children in a slow and compassionate voice with plain and comprehensible words. But soon after he meets Fred, Lloyd is fascinated by Fred's charisma and demeanor, and he begins to open up to Fred. Between the two, the table is turned and Lloyd becomes the subject of the interview. He starts to reflect on his life and deal with his issues with Fred's unassuming yet potent help.
In the end, a 400-word assignment is turned into a 9,000-word cover story: Can You Say...Hero?
Kindness, acceptance, and compassion is the hallmark of Fred Rogers's personality on and off camera. He dedicated himself to help children while making himself approachable. He was a master of communication and made everyone feel that they are at the center of the conversation, regardless of how difficult the subject matter might be. The director Marielle Heller wonderfully captures that spirit and made Lloyd at the center of the film's story. She skillfully showed us how Mr. Rogers's irresistible affection can profoundly impact not only a child, but just about anyone.
Besides wearing the colorful sweaters and slowing down his speeches, Tom Hanks probably doesn't need to do much else to become Mr. Rogers. They share plenty of common traits as decent human beings. That can be both a blessing and a curse because sometimes it becomes hard to distinguish which one we are watching on the screen: Mr. Rogers or Mr. Hank. No matter who that might be, he is probably the nicest person you have ever known.
Even though there was only one Mr. Rogers, there could certainly be more kindness in this world. That would make it a beautiful day no matter in which neighborhood you are.