Monday, December 2, 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Starring: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper
Director: Marielle Heller
Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Rating: PG

Whether or not you grew up watching "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" on TV, surely you're aware of the magnitude of Fred Rogers' impact on multiple generations and their childhood education and development. He is beloved among Gen Xers and Millennials alike, including their parents and the people who raised them. In "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," America's Sweetheart Tom Hanks stars as the inimitable Fred Rogers and transports the audience to a simpler time. His calming onscreen presence is shockingly accurate, and you're certain to leave the theatre whistling the iconic theme song. The film did fall a little short at times, but overall, just hand Hanks the Oscar and go see this film.

The film begins and we're welcomed into the old, comforting living room as Mr. Rogers changes his sweater and his shoes (my personal favorite part of the show as a child!) Soon we're introduced to our protagonist, Lloyd, and transported to NYC 1998. Matthew Rhys delivers a strong performance as Lloyd, a writer for "Esquire" magazine whose assignment is to profile Mr. Fred Rogers. Lloyd is known for being a tough journalist who many people now refuse to be interviewed by because of his harshness. His wife Andrea (the fabulous Susan Kelechi Watson) begs him not to "ruin her childhood" and encourages him to write up a fluff piece honoring the man that is so cherished and admired. Meanwhile, we get a brief peek into Lloyd's troubled relationship with his distant father, setting up a conflict that inevitably takes the lead for most of the film.

When Lloyd and Mr. Rogers meet, Lloyd is equally frustrated and in awe of this man and his patience, kindness and way with children. Though Lloyd begins the interview, Mr. Rogers slowly turns the questions back to Lloyd, allowing their conversations to become somewhat therapeutic as he explores his feelings about his father. Enter Jerry (played by Chris Cooper) and his attempt to reconnect with his son. I would have liked more of the film's focus to be on Mr. Rogers and his family, as opposed to the Lloyd and dad storyline. I found the majority of those scenes to be dark, dimly lit and a bit slow. More Mr. Rogers please!

Scene transitions take place like they did on the original show, which I thought was very cool. This film was inspired by a true story, but there are countless other people who were affected and impacted by Mr. Rogers. If you've seen the "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" documentary, you'll enjoy this film too. You'll definitely leave inspired and hopefully, encouraged to give more grace to others and to yourself.

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