“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” film refreshes audiences

The Mister Rogers film permits audience room to breathe during a busy holiday season.

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“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” film refreshes audiences

Tom Hanks re-enacts Fred Rogers' famous ritual on set of

Tom Hanks re-enacts Fred Rogers' famous ritual on set of "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and trades in his dress shoes for comfortable sneakers.

Courtesy of IMDb

Tom Hanks re-enacts Fred Rogers' famous ritual on set of "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and trades in his dress shoes for comfortable sneakers.

Courtesy of IMDb

Courtesy of IMDb

Tom Hanks re-enacts Fred Rogers' famous ritual on set of "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and trades in his dress shoes for comfortable sneakers.

Chris Baeza, Freelance Writer

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(This story was originally published in print on Dec. 5, 2019).

Fred Rogers stared compassionately into the eyes of Jeff Erlanger as the two sang a duet to each other. “It’s you I like,” Rogers sang. Although Erlanger broke his gaze, Rogers kept his eyes fixed on the young boy who was confined to a wheelchair, unable to even walk up the stairs to enter Roger’s home on the set of the show. Rogers continued to tell Erlanger that he is special despite his physical limitations. Much like Rogers in this episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Tom Hanks, who portrays Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” shares the same care and affection with Lloyd Vogel, played by Matthew Rhys.

“HELLO NEIGHBOR”

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” directed by Marielle Heller, is about disgruntled journalist Lloyd Vogel and his assignment to write a short profile on Fred Rogers. Vogel’s intense struggles with fatherhood, marriage and bitterness toward his father all contribute to his depressive state. Apprehensive and frustrated, Vogel carries out his assignment only to realize that although he was assigned to interview Rogers, it seems as though Rogers flips the profile on Vogel, making him feel special instead.

AN ODE TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Under Heller’s direction, the world of Mr. Rogers came to life through the film’s many establishing shots that emulated the original replica of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Tiny toy cars, airplanes and buildings were built and displayed to introduce the next chapter of Vogel’s journey in the film. Although the tiny toy sets were not a spectacle, they were a pleasing ode to the childlike imagination portrayed throughout the many years of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

MISCONCEPTIONS OF THE FILM

At first glance, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” seems like a biopic. However, the film focuses more on Vogel and his relationship with Rogers. Although Rogers is not the focus, his influence in Vogel’s life becomes apparent throughout the progression of the character. Vogel develops empathy for others by the end of the film—something that had once seemed unattainable for the protagonist.

Vogel actually mirrors a journalist named Tom Junod, who asked to be given a pseudonym because “he felt the story was no longer about him.” However, despite the loose retelling of the story, Junod found the film moving, stating how “poignant and authentic his relationship with Rogers was portrayed in the film,” in an interview with the Atlantic.

HANKS EMBODIES ROGERS

Hanks has had multiple iconic roles throughout his illustrious career, but none like Mr. Rogers. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Hanks said one of the hardest parts about the role was learning “to slow down, diverging from the typically fast-paced process of filmmaking.” And this quality shows as Hanks embodies the slow and comforting persona that is Mr. Rogers. 

Like Rogers, Hanks so convincingly shows how someone as repugnant as Vogel is understood and loved by Rogers. Because of the convincing portrayal of Rogers, it is hard to decide if viewers have fallen in love with Hanks for two hours or Mr. Rogers himself.

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” may seem like a dull narrative between Rogers and Vogel, but it is anything but tiresome. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is a refreshing, inspirational motion picture after the intense and sometimes dark films that have released over the past two months. 

At the 1999 Television Academy Hall of Fame induction, Rogers opens his speech stating, “Fame is a four-letter word. And like tape, or zoom, or face, or pain, or life, or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it.” Heller, Hanks and Rhys have channeled their fame to create something truly special so audiences can laugh, cry and reflect on their own lives this holiday season.