Friday, November 22, 2019


A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood official site When we are constantly bombarded by news full of war, violence, disaster, corruption, injustice, and doomed climate in this turbulent world, we desperately gasp for fresh air that reflects humanity and kindness. The director Marielle Heller's timely new film "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" (USA/China 2019 | 108 min.) offers us a much-needed antidote during this Thanksgiving holiday. We will be thankful for Tom Hanks, perhaps the nicest guy alive, to bring back the saintly figure Mr. Rogers on the big screen. The film doesn't tell Mr. Rogers's story as extensively as last year's beloved documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" (2018), nor is it perfect by all means, but it gently touches and warms our heart nevertheless. It makes us yearn for Mr. Rogers to come back and offer comfort to us, as well as generations to come.

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?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Official Site
Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Photo: Lacey Terrell/Sony Pictures

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.

"A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" opens on Friday, November 22, 2019.

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