Marielle Heller’s newest film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” follows a reporter named Lloyd Vogel, a jaded writer for Esquire magazine who is assigned to write about the famed children’s television host Fred Rogers.
There is something to be said about a movie starring Tom Hanks. For decades, he has charmed audiences with his ability to melt away as a character. In “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Hanks once again displays his talents. Playing an icon like Rogers is no easy task. However, Hanks is able to capture the aesthetic of Rogers and do so convincingly.
Heller’s choice to focus mainly on Vogel’s life instead of Rogers is a strange choice at first, but somehow it works. The contrast between the cheery Rogers and the bleak Vogel offer two different sides of life and how one complements the other.
The film may be rated PG, but it is certainly not for kids. Topics such as abandonment and death are a focal point of the story. The framing and lighting of each scene seems similar to Heller’s previous film “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” – a drama about an alcoholic writer forging letters to make ends meet. While there’s no problem with Heller borrowing techniques used in other films, it’s hard to see why she would use the same technical features of an R-rated drama in a family film about Mr. Rogers.
The emotional impact of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is not as strong as Morgan Neville’s 2018 Mr. Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” It tried to connect with audience members by showing the progression of Vogel and the relationship with his father, but when compared to the life of Rogers, Vogel’s narrative seemed boring.
There are also songs featured in the film that seemed corny and out of place. The overall score, however, was well done. Probably the most creative part of the film had to be the transition scenes. They were filmed in the style of the train sets featured on “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.” It was very nice seeing New York City in a warm blocky state. Just like the show, the scenes were well designed and made the film feel more gentle.
The best moments of the film came when Rogers was hosting his show. The amount of detail Heller went through to recreate the iconic look of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” was worth it given how accurate it looks compared to the actual show. It was also funny to see Hanks lend his voice to the puppets King Friday and Daniel Tiger. It wouldn’t be surprising if Hanks hosted his own version of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” given his ability to lighten the spirits of anyone.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is a nice tribute to Rogers and his effect on others. Heller was able to capture the joy of Rogers while also showing the harsh realities life can bring. There was no forced message that tells people to be good. Instead Heller leaves the audience to decide how they want to treat others.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @abeautifuldaymovie Instagram.
Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org