In a big part of the promotional material for A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, I found there to be a slight disconnection to what you actually get from the film. Maybe it’s because of the critical success of 2018’s documentary, ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’, about an American children’s show host Fred Rogers but there was more attention paid to Tom Hanks’ performance as him here. And even more so to the cardigan wearing Mister Rogers despite that ”A Beautiful Day” looks more at Fred the person rather than Rogers as a TV personality. Even top of that the movie revolves around a journalist Lloyd Vogel who is sent out to interview Rogers while he is coming across tumultuous times in his personal life. Those things make the film less interesting but there’s still enough creativity to make up for it.
We’re mostly following Vogel’s (played by Matthew Rhys) journey which features a distant father Jerry (Chris Cooper), a new baby with his wife Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) and his growing friendship with Hanks’ Fred Rogers. Rhys does a solid job as an emotionally shut down reporter even though some of the scenes with Cooper feel a bit overdramatised and Hanks, whilst looking nothing like the real Rogers, emits the kindness and carefulness to perfection. Their characters approach to a two-way conversation differ completely which makes those moments really dazzle, Vogel coming to dig up any dirt he can find and Rogers on the other hand trying to find the human connection between them.
Director Marielle Heller finds some things to spice up the biographical drama elements as the location changes include mixing them with miniature sets, one scene even putting Vogel physically into one. That isn’t the only laudable thing the art department does but the film also uses the replicated version of the Mister Rogers show in key scenes such as the last one. Whenever we follow Rogers between being on camera and then walking off, the movie taps into its biggest potential which is showing how he can talk to an audience with the same impact as when he talks to Vogel. Vogel’s troubles feel insignificant and self-absorbed and his character really only lights up when he’s faced with something opposite of that which is Rogers’ way of communication.
Smileys: Set decoration, directing
Frowneys: Nothing really
The way that the last shot is constructed, oh my it’s beautiful indeed.