So much of a person’s life is reflected in the people and things that were a part of their childhood. For many of us, if not all of us over the age of 20, our lives were impacted in some way by one man. That man is Fred Rogers and his wonderful world of make-believe.
The month of November is a special time, because not only is it the month of Thanksgiving, it is now the month that a very special movie was released. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, directed by Marielle Heller and starring Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers, takes a look at the life of journalist Lloyd Vogel. Played by Matthew Rhys, Lloyd is based loosely on journalist Tom Junod, who profiled Mister Rogers in a piece entitled ‘Can You Say…Hero?’ for Esquire in 1998.
Something fascinating about this movie is not only how authentic it is, and how much Tom Hanks captures the spirit and personality of Mister Rogers through his performance, but because throughout the entirety of the film, you can FEEL Mister Rogers, his warmth and love and kindness of spirit. It’s as if he is right there in the theatre with us, smiling with us, laughing with us, sharing in our joy and even our sorrow as the story unfolds.
When scenes take place in Mister Rogers’ house on-set at WQED in Pittsburgh or in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, those scenes are really and truly there in the studio where ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ was filmed. That means when Tom Hanks looks at you on camera and smiles, sits down to change his shoes or pulls a red cardigan out of the closet, it is the same closet and seat that Mister Rogers used on set. We are truly back in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
A movie like this can go one of two ways. It can either be a very hollow work, that while it does convey the message it was trying to from the outset, loses something along the way. Or it can be like A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is, and from start to finish show audiences who either did or did not grow up with Mister Rogers in their lives, the kind of man he was. A friendly, funny, loving, kind man, who set out to change the lives of every person he came into contact with by being their friend.
People like Mister Rogers set out to make the world a better place. And while things may seem bleak at times, all of us should take a lesson from his book. To be a friend whenever possible, because we never know who will be changed by our friendship. That is something this movie really gets across and will always be remembered for. It’s like Mister Rogers always said, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
I give A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood 5 stars