Movie #352 2020: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

Wholesome with an edge. That’s how I’d describe this movie. It was definitely more than I bargained for, so let’s get into it.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood gets its title from the classic Fred Rogers song from his kids’ TV show. In the film adaptation, which is much less of a Fred Rogers biography than you’d imagine, we are taken through the events that occurred when Mr. Rogers was interviewed by a solemn, judgmental writer for Esquire magazine. The main character of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is based on a real-life columnist who wrote for the magazine in the eighties. He goes in to the meetings with Rogers (Tom Hanks) thinking that there must be something behind the scenes that makes the TV star less perfect than he seems, but what he finds is something entirely opposite.

Let’s just get one thing out of the way first, for personal reasons: NO ONE TOLD ME BETH PEARSON WAS IN THIS MOVIE! 😍 Of course everyone came to this movie for Tom Hanks, but what an utter delight it always is to see Susan Kelechi Watson. Hanks – nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance here – is undoubtedly brilliant though. There’s not a single other actor on this planet who could have played Mr. Rogers so perfectly; it’s almost as if this movie was built for him.

90% of people in the UK had never heard of Mr. Rogers before this, and I am one of those people. I’ll admit it. As a result, I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d enjoy this. Would you watch a biopic about a person you had no background on? No. However, Marielle Heller frames this in such a way that you need no prior information. You’ll be sucked in, in part due to the way she leads in to the story.

Using the character of Vogel helps engross someone who didn’t actually grow up with Mr. Rogers – a really smart way in if you ask me – and it’s paramount that you’re invested to feel a connection to these characters. You really get a sense of who Vogel is, and join him in his scepticism when he gets round to meeting Rogers. The best thing about the whole thing is that you, as the viewer, feel as though you’re watching the entire thing unfold through his eyes, and it makes for such a gripping watch.

The sequence on the subway where the passengers sing the title song? Movie magic. I honestly found this entire movie so enthralling to the point where I’m pissed it wasn’t raved about enough. At the very least, it should have been nominated for Best Original (or adapted if it’s based on a magazine article?) Screenplay. My mind didn’t drift once, which is extremely rare. 

I honestly couldn’t find a fault with this film. There are some pretty average reviews out there, so I guess some people just wanted it to be all Tom Hanks? But it’s subtle yet elaborate, uplifting yet sad, heartwarming yet cold… I just loved it, okay?! I could not recommend it more.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.

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